The VCU Center on Society and Health’s Mapping Life Expectancy Project was featured at the Atlantic Festival 2018 in Washington, DC. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, funder of the Mapping Life Expectancy Project and underwriter for the festival, displayed the center’s life expectancy maps on an interactive screen. Festival attendees could explore the maps outside of the main “Ideas Stage” in Sydney Harman Hall.
The Atlantic Festival, formerly the annual Washington Ideas Fest, brought together a variety of speakers to discuss a broad range of ideas. Topics ranged from international relations with Russia and China, to the future of artificial intelligence, to achieving health equity. Among those interviewed on the Ideas Stage were Former Secretaries Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, Senators Lindsey Graham and Kamala Harris, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway. NIH Director Francis Collins, NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams were among those interviewed during the festival’s breakout sessions.
The ideas displayed in the Mapping Life Expectancy maps–that there are large gaps in health across short distances–came up repeatedly during the festival. The center’s life expectancy maps were referenced by Washington Editor at Large for the Atlantic and panel interviewer Steve Clemons during the Equity of Health breakout session, in which addressing disparities was a major theme. Health equity and life expectancy even came up in discussions on topics outside of health-related sectors, such as in “Our Economic Future” and “The Future of Work in the Age of AI.”
Awareness raising campaigns like the Mapping Life Expectancy Project and conferences like the Atlantic Festival work to bring people together from across sectors to start conversations around addressing health disparities. As CSH Research Epidemiologist Latoya Hill stated, “The festival was a great opportunity to witness and be a part of such a wide variety of timely, important, and necessary conversations directly and indirectly related to health and the society in which we exist. Having our life expectancy work featured was a great way to highlight and emphasize the importance and relevance of the work we are doing.”