What it means to be "healthy": some thoughts from the SXSW Wellness Expo

This week, we’re taking a look back at one of our favorite episodes from the season: our trip to SXSW’s Wellness Expo, where we interviewed visitors and vendors about their thoughts on what it means to be “healthy”. Now, a few months after our initial trip, the Wooden Teeth staff takes time to reflect on the conversations we had at SXSW, and talk about what the different booths at the event have to say about how our culture thinks about health.

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Chelsea Stallings
Need some summer reading ideas? We got you covered.

In this episode, we are looking back at some of our favorite interviews from this season about books—books that inspire, that force us to reevaluate our preconceived notions, and that illuminate something within ourselves. We’ll show you some highlights from our conversations with three different authors about their work: Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat; author of Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar Villanueva; and finally, Leslie Crutchfield, author of How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed and Others Don’t. Our Wooden Teeth staff also joins the podcast to give some of their top book recommendations for this summer. If you are looking for something to read for a coming vacation in these warmer weeks, we promise you will leave this episode with a laundry list of books to stack on your nightstand and expand your mind.

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Chelsea Stallings
How does economic inequality influence mental health?

In this episode, Jake speaks with Richard Wilkinson, co-author, along with Kate Pickett, of a new book titled "The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone's Well-Being". This book examines how economic policy influences a myriad of health issues—such as the fact, for instance, that mental illness is three times as common in the United States as it is Germany. In the conversation, we dive into both the reasons why economic inequality manifests in these negative health outcomes, as well as how policy solutions can fix the problem.

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Chelsea Stallings
The re-birth of the public option

A public health insurance failed to make it into the Affordable Care Act, but now states are creating their own version of the public option. Colorado has adopted legislation that initiates the implementation of a public health insurance option for residents, and we get the inside story of the bill and how it passed from Susanna Mizer, Healthier Colorado's Senior Director of Public Affairs. To put this policy development in context, we also present a cheeky 10 minute, 4 act play on the history of the public option in America. Enjoy! 

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Chelsea Stallings
All About the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary

On today’s episode, we speak with political consultants Jayson Sime and Kate Duch of One Minus Beta about the process and politics of the 2020 process to produce a Democratic nominee for President. How are the rules different this year? How will a large field of candidates change the race? Which lesser-known candidate has a chance to breakthrough? Those are all questions we tackle. We also talk about Jayson's Syme role as a health coach, trainer, and speaker through his project called Right to Shine.   

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Chelsea Stallings
When we elect women, what happens to our health?

This week, our host Jake Williams chatted with Edwin Ng of the University of Waterloo and Carles Muntaner of the University of Toronto. They examined the effect of female representation in government on population health. Turns out, female representation and feminism generally are good for your health.

And we couldn’t have a podcast about women with only men so two ladies of the Wooden Teeth team joined to give their take on the episode. So join us as we discuss feminism and public health.

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Chelsea Stallings
Why are some cities better at keeping people alive?

A low-income resident of New York City or San Jose, CA lives about 5 years longer on average than a low-income resident of Detroit or Indianapolis. The evidence suggests that this is due, at least in part, to the difference in social, economic and public health resources offered to residents via public policy. Today on the podcast we have the president of CityHealth, Shelley Hearne. CityHealth, an initiative of the deBeaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, advances evidence-based public health policy solutions that help people live longer, better lives in cities across America, and then ranks cities on their adoption of these policies with a gold/silver/bronze medal system.

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Chelsea Stallings
Why does CrossFit have a political agenda?

This week: We learn that there’s an exercise Jake can’t do, find out why a gym company has a government affairs director, and learn about “unholy alliances” of less-than-savory businesses and government health agencies.

We’re joined by Russ Greene, who heads up government relations for CrossFit, which now has more than 15,000 affiliate gyms around the country and we find out what it means to be a fitness company with its own political ideology.

Disclosure: Jake <3s CrossFit.

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Ryan Sims
Politicians can choose their own voters. Is that a threat to democracy?

Every 10 years, based on the data provided by the U.S. Census, states redraw the country's congressional and state legislative districts. It’s an intense and often contentious political process that shapes representation for the decade to follow.

The rules about how redistricting works, specifically about whether districts can be drawn to expressly favor one party over another, are being considered right now by the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome of that case could have profound impact upon the health of our democracy.

We talk it over with Michael Li, Senior Counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. He is a leading national expert in the redistricting process and, as you might guess, has lots of thoughts on the topic.

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Ryan Sims
Childbirth and reproductive health in America: Where we are and why we're here

Another dispatch from SXSW and a big, important conversation this week.

We’re talking maternal health care and the worsening dangers of childbirth in the U.S. We’re also talking abortion and comprehensive sex education as part of the spectrum of reproductive health care and why so many American women deliver their babies via c-section. Paid family leave makes an appearance too.

Join us as we sit down with three passionate experts and advocates on International Women’s Day, who were in Austin to present a session called Hysteria No More: Data, Doctors, and Women’s Health:

  • Dr. Chitra Akileswaran, Co-Founder of Cleo and lecturer at Harvard Medical School

  • Dr. Rashmi Kudesia, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at CCRM Fertility Houston

  • Dr. Pooja Mehta, Director of Maternal and Women's Health Policy at the LSU Center Consortium for Health Transformation

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Ryan Sims
The physical and mental toll of mass violence

In the wake of violence, some survivors appear unharmed but actually experience very real mental health injuries. Manya Chylinski, a survivor of 2013 Boston Marathon bombing who now speaks about mental trauma and resiliency & Amanda Samman, CEO of the Better Lab and trauma surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, join us on the podcast this week. 

We talk with Manya about her personal journey after the marathon and to Amanda about how her experience has informed how she has engaged on this issue. 

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Chelsea Stallings
We went to SXSW and heard a lot of things

This week: A little change of pace from the Wooden Teeth crew.

We snagged a booth at the SXSW Wellness Expo and talked to anyone who’d lend an ear about this very show – and we also got their thoughts on tape about the products they were selling and what influences their chance to be healthy.

Listen up for some of the best, most-interesting, and most-head-scratching products and ideas about our health.

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Ryan Sims
What are the most effective policy proposals to improve health?

President & CEO of Trust for America’s Health, John Auerbach, joins us on the podcast as we discuss effective policy proposals to improve health. We talk about the evolution of public health, the role of Trust for America's Health (TFAH), and we dive deep about specific state-level policy ideas. 

TFAH recently examined 1500 policies in an effort to identify the most feasible and effective ones that states can use to improve health and control costs. Their wide-ranging findings include recommendations on income, housing, syringe access, and policy to promote healthy behavior. 

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Chelsea Stallings
Should people be allowed to inject illegal drugs under supervision?

Lisa Raville, Executive Director of the Harm Reduction Action Center, joins us on the podcast today. At the Harm Reduction Action Center, drug users are provided with clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, along with other resources to help them stay healthy and avoid overdose, in addition to providing treatment referral. 

Last year,  Denver approved a measure that would create a pilot site for a "supervised use site," a place where people could legally inject drugs under medical supervision. However, state approval would still be needed, and federal threats by the Trump Administration loom. 

Lisa takes us inside the world of applying a harm reduction strategy to address the needs of people who inject drugs. 

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Chelsea Stallings
What makes a movement succeed or fail?

Leslie Crutchfield is Executive Director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and she’s the author of "How Change Happens: Why some social movements succeed and others don't."

We talk about why societal trends go where they do and the effect those trends have on the direction of the country. Like, how did we make so much progress on LGBTQ rights while the country also stockpiled guns and ammunition?

Important for us, specifically, we also talk about why, after over a century of trying, America has yet to achieve universal access to health care.

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Ryan Sims
Is public health under siege? And other hot topics with Dr. Georges Benjamin

The Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Dr. Georges Benjamin joins us on the podcast today. We talk about some of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st century like maternal and infant health. We also discuss climate change and why APHA thinks it’s a public health concern.

Dr. Georges Benjamin gets real as he provides a critique of Trump’s State of the Union address to eradicate HIV and AIDS. And to top it all off, we talk about APHA’s recent forum titled, “Public Health Under Siege: Improving Policy in Turbulent Times, “ which featured Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and public health leaders from around the country.

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Chelsea Stallings
Getting to know SiX with Jessie Ulibarri

We all know shows like The West Wing and Veep accurately portray the day-to-day lives of our elected officials. WRONG! Jessie Ulibarri is the executive director at the State Innovation Exchange (Six) and unfortunately, he’s here to tell us government is nothing like what you see on TV. Especially state government.

We talk with Ulibarri about how SiX supports state legislators with tools and resources to pass progressive policies like paid family leave, criminal justice reform, paid sick days, and more. So sit back and crank up the volume as we get to know the State Innovation Exchange.

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Chelsea Stallings
News with friends: Scott Wasserman

We’re trying something new today! We process current events from a public policy and public health perspective with friends of the podcast. And who better to kick this off than Scott Wasserman, president of the Bell Policy Center!

We talk about the 3 M’s on this episode: medicare for all, Marxism, and marijuana. Wait, is that a thing? Probably not but we might patent it. Stay tuned. We also talk about Coloradans running for president, the federal government shutdown, and teacher strikes.

Check out this episode and let us know your thoughts by rating us on iTunes!

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Chelsea Stallings
Science & democracy with Michael J. Thompson

We live in a complicated society. We’re technologically advanced and scientifically complex. And while a world of information is right at our fingertips to help us dissect these convoluted studies, there’s also an abundance of misinformation spreading like wildfire.

Michael J. Thompson, editor of, Anti-Science and the Assault on Democracy, discusses “fake news” around climate change, and outlandish claims about the effects of vaccines. I mean, should we trust those fancy pants scientists? Or are we holding our democracy back because we view science as left or right instead of facts?

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Chelsea Stallings
What states can do to address gun violence with Ari Freilich

Ari Freilich is the staff attorney and California Legislative Affairs Director at the Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence and he joins us this week to talk about, well, guns, gun violence, and preventing gun violence.

The Giffords Center was founded by former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords after she and 18 others were shot at a constituent event in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, AZ.

And whether or not you believe guns kill people or people kill people, Freilich takes us down memory lane as he explains how the 2nd Amendment has evolved from “a well-regulated militia” to something more like “assault weapons for all.”

He also highlights the role of guns in today’s escalating rates of suicide. Most gun-related deaths today are the result of suicide, not homicide. The rising rate of gun-related deaths has also contributed to a drop in life-expectancy for Americans. So why aren’t we considering this a public health crisis?

Don’t worry though. It’s not all sad. We end on a positive note as Freilich discusses policy steps that can be taken at the state level to reduce gun violence. So let’s dive in!

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Chelsea Stallings