This is my personal end of year letter. I used to send it to my personal email list but in the Facebook/Twitter era, it doesn't make much sense. I hope THCB readers will indulge me by taking a look and maybe even thinking about some of the charities and causes I support–feel free to add your own in the comments. I'll be back with a more health care featured forecast next week–Matthew
I'm determined to make this the end of 2010 letter, not "well into 2011" letter. But as I've also got tons to do of an unfortunate work nature on NYE even though it's a holiday, so I am going to be quick–or at least a little quicker than in years past.
I do these letters about charity and politics every year and moved them onto a blog a while ago (here's 2010 2009s, 2008s and you can search back), and now it's all I use my personal blog for, given that my Twitter account @boltyboy & Facebook page contain most of my very limited rantings. Of course I started these partly because I didn't have the wife & kids that most people send out their end of year missives about. Then in 2007 I added the wife part, and this year's big news is that next year Amanda and I are expecting a daughter. Little Colette should be here around the end of April, and I'm sure she'll have her own Facebook page and 529 account very soon if I know Amanda! The other family news this year is that my sister Dordy had a baby boy called Alex in February. Sister-in-law Lyn has a baby girl called Talia in 2009 but as it was Dec 26 you can count her in the most recent crop!
But enough about babies (for now!). I'm still running the Health 2.0 Conference with my partner Indu Subaiya and now (gulp) four other full time staff (Hillary, Lizzie, Bianca & new recruit Emily). It's still growing (4 conferences last year including one in Europe) and much more besides. Somehow none of this has translated into more time off for me and Indu! I still own The Health Care Blog but basically now that's a group blog I contribute to very occasionally! Other than getting a little plumper around the middle, Amanda is still being a big time star running HR at her company PRN.
This letter is, though, about stuff I care about on a slightly more altruistic level. This annual missive usually breaks down into my views and suggestions for donations about health care, poverty in developing world, poverty at home, torture, and drug prohibition. Feel free to comment, ignore, delete or whatever. But hopefully at least some of you may pay attention to some of it or even write a check.
First, health care stuff. I won't comment on the passage of the ACA health care bill other than to say, it's an imperfect step in the right direction that has caused the digging up of more meanness and selfishness than even I imagined possible. In terms of health related suggestions:
Engage with Grace was founded by my friend Alex Drane with a touch of help from yours truly. Use it to start that hardest of conversations about what you want at the end of life. And no, Ms Palin, that responsible conversation is not a death panel.
Another Health 2.0-er Manny Hernandez runs the Diabetes Hands Foundation, doing great work to raise awareness and also create innovative tools to help people with diabetes. You can help with a small donation here
Talking of the arts and end of life care, one of the most wonderful people I've met this or any other year is Regina Holliday. (Here's a story about her on VOA and here's her blog). Since her husband's awful death in 2009, she's been using her Medical Mural Advocacy Project to argue for better care and for better medical records. I was delighted that we were able to auction a painting she did at Health 2.0 for a little bit of money to support her work (and many thanks to Regina to coming to SF). What she's been able to do in terms of both art and representing the voice of patients has been amazing. Get to know her and see what you can do to help.
Finally, please join my friend pediatrician Alan Greene's campaign, Whiteout. Let's make sure that we teach kids to eat right from the first bite. Eliminating white rice baby cereal is an easy first step.
Poverty abroad. Now I run conferences and know what gets spent per head on a meals, those little coke bottles ($5 really!), break time coffee ($7.50!) and all that other stuff. I cringe about the fact what gets tossed away at the end of the day per attendee costs more than more than a billion people live on each month! In some small way to make up for that, I'm focused on helping organizations that promote social entrepreneurship, microfinance, and education for girls. No long explanations, but my favorites for a while have been
- Mercy Corps multiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world
- Heifer International gives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty.
- Saigon Children's Charity a smaller charity focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school
One new idea for this year–which I ran into believe it or not via a plug from Didier Drogba–is a new lightbulb that's solar powered. In developing countries where there's no electricity, it replaces kerosene lamps which cause huge numbers of fires. You can buy one for yourself and also give one (or more) which will be put in medical packs distributed by the charity Project Cure.
Poverty at home Things aren't getting better for the poor in the US, in fact with the expiry of unemployment benefits & reduction of COBRA payments, they're getting worse.
I've supported the Hamilton Family Center, which is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing with relatively little money. We went a bit hogwild by buying a week in Sun Valley at a charity auction they held last October. You don't have to spend that much, but you can help by clicking this link.
The Delancey Street Foundation has an incredible record in helping people who have hit bottom (think addiction and prison) get back into society. It's all run by the residents themselves, and our dog Charley gets sausages from Aubria most mornings at the Crossroads cafe (across the street from us). Although they're now in lots of cities across the US. You can donate here.
And of course you can find organizations like this (well maybe not Delancey Street) in your town.
I've talked about torture and human rights for a long time. I wish I could say that the situation is getting better…give a click and a donation to these organizations which help those being tortured and protest those governments who should know and act better:
- Amnesty International
- The UK-based Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture
- The American Civil Liberties Union continues to be on the forefront on upholding the rule of law, and protesting government policies that include torture.
The environment. I honestly don't hold out much hope on a global scale but I give to both the Sierra Club and Greenpeace. Greenpeace looks like it may have been making some progress in demonstrating to the Japanese public just how awful their government's support of its whaling industry is proving to be.
More than 10 seals have been shot this year alone in the San Francisco Area. the Marine Mammal Center is a wonderful facility that helps them (and many more) recover. We joined as members (just $25) and you might think about helping too.
Drug prohibition—a terrible idea that still holds sway A system of taxed and regulated drug distribution is the only solution to removing the criminality associated with drug taking, much of which is relatively harmless anyway. For almost all drugs the harms caused by prohibition exceed the harms caused by drug taking. But although there's a low grade temporary truce around marijuana in some counties in California, we appear to be no closer to a national or international solution. The organizations I support are:
- DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.
- The Marijuana Policy Project, still fighting for the rights of medical marijuana patients.
- The Drug Policy Alliance is the main lobbying organization promoting "harm reduction"
Every Dog has his Day. And we suspect that Charley's will be when he meets the new baby. But as his chief walker, I know that he has a good life, especially on the days he gets bacon at Java House and sausage at Crossroads. For dog's that aren't as lucky Amanda and I support Rocket Dog Rescue $50 pays for an adoption, which usually means saving a dog from being destroyed. So another new years letter over.
It’s good to spend a bit of time reassessing but I'm still happy with many of my choices. But, ten years on, I realize there's way too much still to be done! But it's good to see that there are still people trying hard to make a difference, and even introducing new things each year Stay in touch in 2011. I'm sure to be plastering Facebook with photos of Colette when she gets here, and hopefully I'll get to see even more of you in real life this year.