Those who completed the marathon that was HLTH 2023 were rewarded in the conference’s final 24 hours with a conversation featuring Chelsea Clinton and a Fat Joe/Ashanti show — not to mention a fancy last-morning brunch at the opulent Wynn Hotel.
Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation and co-founder of Metrodora Ventures, a New York-based VC firm that focuses on health startups, devoted her time on stage to a lengthy discussion about longevity.
She was one of HLTH’s main celebrity draws this year, alongside Nick Jonas and Howie Mandel. Such appearances reinforced the conference’s reputation for glamor and showmanship.
While most of HLTH’s panelists focused on innovation, Clinton eschewed talk about cutting-edge technology and self-initiated metabolism hacks and, instead, hammered home the need to get basic infrastructure in place. Think schools, pediatricians, parent support and other people and mechanisms designed to improve children’s health.
She shared the stage with Ellen DaSilva, founder and CEO of pediatric virtual care company Summer Health.
“So often these conversations around healthy living are like, ‘What do we do when people turn 65?’” Clinton said. “That’s important, but we also need to be anchoring the conversation in pregnancy and in the earliest days of life.”
DaSilva agreed, adding, “If we want to ensure that we all live to 100 or beyond, then we have to start investing in health from before our children are born.”
Clinton cited a devastating statistic: That women giving birth today are 50% more likely to die in childbirth than women belonging to the previous generation. “Certainly those statistics are even more harrowing for indigenous women and for Hispanic women and for Black women,” Clinton noted. “I think it’s important that we recognize this is a nationwide challenge.”
The ultimate point she aimed to drive home? That the country has “failed consistently to prioritize our kids.” Not only have maternal mortality rates increased, but rates of suicide among children and children killed by firearms have also risen.
“We know that a third of adolescent girls say they’ve had suicidal thoughts,” Clinton continued. “We know that we’re not doing enough to support our caregiving infrastructure, or to support parents to have the resources to care for their children.”
She called on both public officials and HLTH attendees to “think about how we can better invest in the care and support for children and their caregivers.”
The conversation also addressed the nationwide pediatrician shortage, high rates of childhood obesity (one in five children in the U.S. are obese and one in three are overweight), the lack of access to midwives and the ongoing nutritional disaster of school lunches. Clinton also delved into her personal motivation for pursuing systemic change.
“Bluntly, I think it all probably starts with my mom,” she said. “I grew up deeply cognizant of how both blessed and privileged I was. To be aware of my blessings, my health, the fact that I had my parents, my grandparents and also a great school… I had a place to play, I had food on the table, water to drink. And so my entire life I thought about, ‘What can I do?’”
Both Clinton and DaSilva called for startup ideas that address pediatric mental health. When asked if she had a “radical idea” for a solution to some of these problems, Clinton simply responded, “Invest in women founders.” That seemed to please the audience.
Meanwhile, as I file the last of my stories from the Wynn Hotel, here’s a parting thought on HLTH 2023. As a first-timer at a conference of this magnitude — and a first-time visitor to Las Vegas — it was an adventure navigating the chaos, jam-packed schedules, traffic and confusing city layouts. That said, overall it was a cool and enriching experience. 10/10, would do it again.