Matthew’s end of 2014 charity & issues letter

I’ve been posting my personal end of year email on THCB for a few years now–here’s 2014’s edition–Matthew Holt

Dec 31 2014: Last year I claimed laziness and failed to write or send out my End of Year Issues email for the first time since I started in 2000. Perhaps it was the stress of being 50, or the fact that despite having 15,000 of my closest friends follow me on Twitter I cant seem to reach people on email, or people miss my Facebook posts. But this year I’ve been guilted back into it by altogether too many people asking me where it was?!

If you don’t know, this is a letter I write mostly to myself about what happened in the year and what I should do about it–mostly in terms of making donations while it’s still 2014. Obviously a few of you like reading it and hopefully one or two of them that does will put their hand into their pocket (or click on the link and use their Paypal account or whatever the electronic equivalent is). And if you don’t like it, well feel free to hit delete, or go onto the next picture of a cat being cute…and I love comments on the blogs/Facebook/Twitter or by email.

Almost none of this letter is about my family (and I started writing it long before I had one), I’m ashamed to say that this year we finally became one of those families that send out a Christmas Card with pictures of themselves on it. The only excuse is that this year Aero (Lucius Frederic Aero Holt) joined us, and he’s been a mellow, laid-back quiet-ish baby in a way that his now 3 &; 1/2 year old sister Coco is, err, not! Way, way more in terms of photos and stories about Coco & Aero are on my Facebook page. For her part, Amanda is being a great mum (adding a second does not make the first one easier!)  and she hasn’t yet the local Russian mafia bump me off even though in her new job at Gluu she has teams that help people kill electronic deer, and of course become BFFs with Kim Kardashian. (Not kidding, Google how much Kim is making from it!)

Just in case you didn’t know, on the work front (with my partner Indu Subaiya & a great team spread across several states & in Europe) I’m still running Health 2.0 which now has multiple conferences and will be heading to Korea & Japan for the first time in 2015. It’s kind of worrying but the stuff we’ve talking about (now semi-wrongly known as Digital Health) is actually becoming pretty mainstream. (Probably time for me to go do something else, then!), I still own The Health Care Blog but basically now that’s a group blog I’m allowed to write on if I ask nicely!

Here then is my annual missive about charity and politics –here’s 20122011 2010 20092008 and you can search back to 2002 (first one was either 2000 or 2001 but either way it was pre-Blogger so I dont have a copy!), As ever, this letter is about my views and suggestions for donations about health care, poverty in developing world, poverty at home, torture, drug prohibition, and other stuff…. Comments/Insults welcome

First, health care.

In the US the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is in effect and barring complete insanity from the Supreme Court next year (yes, that BS is still not over) it’s pretty much here to stay. But even though the numbers of uninsured are down remarkably (about 10m or some 20%) there’s still 40m uninsured including some 5m+ poor Americans in 23 states that turned down Medicaid expansion even though the Federal government will pay for all of it! Yes in our amazing system, if you are slightly richer than dirt poor in those states, you can get a subsidy covering basically all of your insurance premiums, but if you are Medicaid eligible (really really poor) but not in a special qualifying group, you get nothing. Take a look at this interactive graphic. And no, SF Giants fans, orange is not good here! Families USA is one group that you can support to try to change this (and there’s a feeling that the biggest refusenik, Texas, may be changing its mind as Utah, Wyoming & Tennessee are doing)

The other health care news that made me choke on my cornflakes was the Hobby Lobby case which basically mean that employers can discriminate against women (and men!) by not paying for contraception even when the law says it has to be in the benefits package. And yes, they do pay for Viagra. Other than replacing most of the Supreme Court justices with human beings with a heart, not much can be done about the ruling but it did get me thinking. There’s one organization that consistently that not only campaigns for but actually provides reproductive services (including contraception, STD testing, counselling, pregnancy support and, yes, safe abortions), so I’m chucking a few bucks at Planned Parenthood.

Some old & newer health care favorites:

Engage with Grace founded by my friend Alex Drane. No donation needed–use the 5 questions you can download to start that hardest of conversations about what you want for your care at the end of life. You can also lobby Alex to start her TV career! Also check out DeathOverDinner which encourages you to have a dinner party and talk about death next week (I’ll be going to CES in Las Vegas which amounts to much the same thing!)

Jeremy Nobel’s Foundation for Arts & Healing is engaging patients in arts, and it’s  especially effective for veterans with PTSD. You can offer (financial) support here.

I’m still on the board of YTH, a really cool organization  that helps use technology to educate young people about sex. The YTH Live conference is in San Francisco in April & it’s great and cheap!

You may remember the video of Coco’s first bite as part of pediatrician Alan Greene’s Whiteout campaign–it has had lots of success in educating families and pediatricians about eliminating white rice baby cereal. Alan’s newest campaign TICC TOCC is to stop immediate cord clamping among newborns.  Aero’s cord was clamped by an OBGYN who walked in about 5 minutes before he was born, with no pre-discussion, other than me shouting frantically & futilely at her. So we need to spread the word in advance to those who deliver children–easier said than done.

One last thing. You should have access to all your medical records in electronic format, Here’s information on the Blue Button initiative. I gave a talk at Health 2.0 about Aero’s (minor) medical situation at his birth and why this matters…

Poverty in developing countries

In times when the Taliban are slaughtering school kids, it seems like we’re losing the battle to create a better future for very poor countries. But there is a lot that’s happening that is very positive, and we can’t just sit idly by. My favorites for a while have been:

  • Mercy Corps has multiple projects in the very poorest countries in the world. The Fast Company quote about them is “Mercy Corps insists on serving up smart, bold solutions to seemingly intractable problems … supporting seeds of change in the wake of turmoil and tragedy.”
  • Heifer International gives animals directly to the very poor in order to get them out of the cycle of poverty. They allow you to give in other ways. For the cost of a good night out, I bought an irrigation pump & a flock of chicks
  • Saigon Children’s Charity is one of my favorites. It’s a smaller charity (receiving a little over $1m a year in donations) focusing on providing rice (and bikes and books and pens) to the families of school children in Southern Vietnam so they stay in school. I support a few individual pupils & let me give a shout out to MediComp Systems, a health tech company which gave SCC $750 in “game show winnings” that I “won” at the HIMSS conference this year.
  • And one slightly oddball charity working in Uganda to distribute mosquito nets and provide a health center and family planning outreach is Softpower Health You might like this article about kayaking doctor Jesse Stone who started it more or less accidentally
  • From the imaginations of a married couple in Berkeley,California,  We Care Solar makes a suitcase-sized portable solar powered generator and supplies it to health workers in off-grid clinics across the world. They have had a request for 100 suitcases for areas in the Ebola epidemic and have supplied 70 so far. You can help out here.
  • And/or you can give to Power the World which provides Nokero solar lights, the WE CARE Solar Suitcase, SOCCKET (all of which I’ve featured in previous letters) and clean cook stoves
  • Finally, Health eVillages is a charity launched at Health 2.0 by Donato Tramuto from health tech company Physicians Interactive. It delivers iPads, and  smartphones with preloaded medical information to clinicians in remote parts of Haiti, Kenya and elsewhere.

Poverty in the US

Is not getting much better. You may have your local favorites, but here’s the list I support:

  • San Francisco food bank. Put your zip code in here to find out your local equivalent
  • Hamilton Family Center, is a small shelter offering emergency and transitional care, as well as getting families into permanent housing. If you live in San Francisco you know that the housing situation is dire at any income level. Think about those at the bottom. You can help by clicking this link.
  • Homeless Children’s Network supports care services for homeless children. No one should have to start life that way. You can help here
  • Delancey Street Foundation helps people who have hit bottom (think addiction/prison) get back into society and work, It’s run by the residents themselves and it’s across the street from us (as well as elsewhere in the US). You can donate here although I must confess that my official donation went up when I discovered that all the tips at the cafe get put into the same pool (and I can therefore not tip, donate instead and effectively write my tips off against tax!)
One thing that I am painfully aware of now I have two children is the real problem and high cost of child care. Given that everyone starts off being a child and there’s universal agreement that early childhood education is the most important time of life–and that kids from poorer homes get less care and attention and never get to catch up–it’s amazing that there’s no universal child care program. And even more amazing to find out that th legislation for it was passed in the 1970s but Nixon adviser Pat Buchanan–who was 30 years later  a major cause (albeit by accident) of the election of the W Administration–torpedoed it almost single-handedly. Anyway, you might read this article by actress Jennifer Garner about the topic.


Torture and human rights

Well if we didn’t know before (and we did) the Senate report confirms that the US sunk into the morass of nations who use torture post 9/11 and as a tool to gain intelligence it was ineffective–other than helping blacken our name. And the Senate report put all the blame on the CIA when it was clear that the same things were happening in the Army prison camps in Iraq (including the one ISIS came from) and the word came down from the very top (Yes, Cheney & Rumsfeld ). My own grandfather was tortured (or perhaps “enhanced-ly interrogated”) in a Japanese POW camp, and we should not be doing these things or paying taxes to support it.

These organizations help those being tortured (or who have been) and protest those governments who should act better.

The environment.

I give to both the Sierra Club (respectable) and Greenpeace (more radical but has more or less got the Japanese to stop whaling), and locally to the Marine Mammal Center–a wonderful facility that helps seals recover, including most years one or two that get shot (yes, really!). Meanwhile in the US we should be campaigning for an increase in gasoline taxes (and not the teeny one that is stalled in Congress)–especially now the oil price is falling due to some geopolitical games the Saudis are playing.

Drug prohibition–a terrible idea that is closer to being toppled

I’ve been protesting drug prohibition forever. 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. Finally there’s some good news with 4 US states and Uruguay having legalized marijuana, and a clause in the latest Cromnibus bill defunding the DEA from raiding medical marijuana in those states where it’s legal. But we’re still a long way from a commonsense way of dealing with drugs, and there’s still lots of criminals and police forces making too much money & budget from what is a medical not a criminal problem. And no one is talking in the US about dealing sensibly with harder drugs (as they are in Portugal, Switzerland and other countries). So

  • DRCNet home of the best blog and email newsletter, the Drug War Chronicle.They’re working on a new campaign to get the UN to overturn its foolish charter banning legalization–here’s their round up of 2015
  • The Marijuana Policy Project, fighting for the rights of medical marijuana patients.
  • The Drug Policy Alliance — the main lobbying organization promoting “harm reduction”. If you are interested head honcho Ethan  Nadelmann’s TED talk is a great introduction

A Dog’s Life. Charley has had a couple of surgeries minor surgeries this year, but is still coming to Health 2.0’s office most days, While we finally got Coco to stop pulling his tail him, we’re sure Aero will be starting up soon. 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.

Well done for getting this far! Hopefully you found it interesting, and perhaps even thought about joining me in giving. Or send me your suggestions

And with the diaspora away from email this is going on blogs, Twitter, Facebook et al. But an easy way to catch up is to see the photos of Coco & Aero I put up on Facebook.

Have a great 2015! — Matthew


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