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I came across an interesting list this morning: The 20 Great Challenges of Health and Medicine for 2012 from TEDMED. (Yes, it is part of Ted Conferences, LLC. An independent TedX event was just hosted last weekend here in Bend.)

TEDMED is a gathering of though-leaders, held once a year. The participants are a community of people who are “passionate about imagining the future of health and medicine”, and there’s no set “agenda”; instead, TEDMED “seeks to serve the nation—and the world—by creating a safe place where people with very different ideas can come together to talk, to learn and to celebrate the amazing world we live in.”

For me, the TED talks can get a bit fluffy, but their intentions are rock solid. For 2012, TEDMED introduced the Great Challenges Program, which identifies 20 great challenges in the field of health and medicine for the current year. How do they pick them? Well, at the 2011 TEDMED conference, 50 knowledgeable individuals served as Advocates for 50 different proposed “Great Challenges”. The Advocates spend a few days lobbying the onsite TEDMED Delegates, who then vote for the final 20 Great Challenges. A lively national dialogue is generated around the chosen 20, and a series of multidisciplinary webinars dedicated to the Great Challenges are held with a vast array of scientists, healthcare professionals, teachers, and politicians.

The list for 2012 does include a collection of obvious cultural and societal issues that we’re all aware of (Impact of Poverty on Health, The Obesity Crisis, Promoting Active Lifestyles), but it also touches on some less public healthcare issues that are still at the core of the “Great Challenges”.

Some of the more interesting Challenges picked include:
Whole-Patient Care
(how can we treat the whole patient rather than the disease?)
The Future of Personalized Medicine (How can the wealth of medical information be factored into patient medical records and into everyday care — more quickly, more usefully and more completely?)
Faster Adoption of Best Practices (Even when best practices are identified and publicized, many providers seem slow to adopt them. What can we do to capture millions of improvements per year and make best practices available to benefit many more providers and patients?)

Here is the comprehensive list of the final 20 Great Challenges of Health and Medicine for 2012.

Inventing Wellness Programs
The Caregiver Crisis
The Role of the Patient
The Obesity Crisis
Achieving Medical Innovation
Managing Chronic Diseases
Medical Communication
Reducing Childhood Obesity
Making Prevention Popular
End-of-life Care
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Impact of Poverty on Health
Faster Adoption of Best Practices
Impact of Stress
Future of Presonalized Medicine
Promoting Active Lifestyles
Preparing for Dementia
Addressing Healthcare Costs
Whole-Patient Care
Eliminating Medical Errors

And the 30 not picked? A list of very well deserving topics.

Achieving Medical Privacy
Addressing Doctor Shortage
Balancing Risk and Rewards
Informed Choice Work Better
Setting R&D Priorities
Reforming the Medical Ecosystem
Private Rights and Public Good
Eliminating HAIs
Improving Evidence Reliability
Food and Technology
Integrating Effective CAM
Overlooked Cancer Cohort
Reducing School Violence
Better Mental Health Literacy
Taking Our Medicine
Choosing Better Foods
Isolation and Loneliness
Unwed Teen Motherhood
Multi-Cultural Medicine
Special Needs Patients
Reducing Domestic Violence
Accessing Medical Data
Elevating Dental Health
Inventing Better Metrics
Deciding What’s Normal
Avoiding Over-Diagnosis
Childhood Diagnoses
“Unimaginable” Possibilities
Medical Information Overload
Malpractice Dilemma
Tomorrow’s Medical Leaders

To read in-depth about the subjects that made the list, visit

What do you think deserves to be here? Anything that got left off?