by Austin Montoya, Social Media and Online Coordinator

The 2014 Colorado Health Symposium, hosted by the Colorado Health Foundation, amassed talks ranging from the effects of media on health, to the exponentially growing field of health IT, to the complexities of engaging consumers and communities in their health. The three days spent in beautiful Keystone, Colorado could not have been more filled with beautiful weather and intellectually stimulating conversations.

Although the Health Symposium has been held in Keystone for a number of years, this was the first time I was able to participate. I was chosen as a “Social Media Fellow,” by the Colorado Health Foundation, and was in charge of keeping the conversation going online – along with Mirna Ramirez-Castro of CCARES and Servicios de La Raza, Liz ErkenBrack of Rocky Mountain Health Plans, Jess Meyer of CCMU, and Rachel Moore of the Colorado HealthOP. Adding the hashtag, #14CHS, we highlighted key ideas from the speakers, added our own thoughts and questions, and encouraged others to join in. In the three days of the conference, more than 5,500 tweets, photos, and Facebook posts were published under the hashtag!

The Symposium was divided into three different focuses over its duration: Engaging Behavior; Engaging Relationships; and Engaging Communities. There were so many discussions throughout the days, so I cannot possibly recap everything; however, if you would like to view the live-recorded panel discussions and keynote speakers, check it out here:

Alan Weil, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, kicked the conference off explaining the complexity of human behavior regarding health care and the struggle to not only grant access to better health care through policy, but to also find ways to change behaviors and lifestyle choices. “Everyone is affected by health policy,” Weil stated. “The burden of health disparities is on people who will never go to a conference like this.”

Perhaps Lori Dorfman, Director of Berkeley Media Studies Group, was who highlighted the theme of the day best for me. She spoke on the fact that there is a power gap, not an information gap, between different populations that create an unhealthy society. The last panel speaker, Brenda Zimmerman of the Schulich School of Business at York University, Toronto, added that even though research and information may be available, to actually begin changing behavior takes time and effort – alluding to the many years bloodletting was used to cure disease.

The talks ended with discovery and breakout sessions, one of which CCHI’s Adam Fox discussed “Got Insurance?” and its reach on engaging specific consumer groups.

The second day begin with Lygeia Ricciardi, Director of the Office of Consumer eHealth, spoke on the importance of changing one’s frame of mind when it comes to technology and health care. Ricciardi stated, “We shouldn’t think of technology as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing, but as a tool.” She then showed Blue Button, ( an initiative to make medical records more available and easy for consumers. The panel discussion included the following: Robin Schepper, VP of Partnerships, Nonprofits, and Content at Welltok; Stacie Pallotta, Senior Director of the Office of Patient Experience at Cleveland Clinic; and Billy Wynne, Partner for Thorn Run Partners. The discussion involved concerns over privacy and security when it comes to new health IT as well as the how the “digital divide” still continues to widen and create disparities in health. Vivek Wadhwa, of Stanford University, explained the massive surge of technology growth – comparing today’s technology to Star Trek – and the potential amazing effects it can have for the future of medicine and health.

Later there was another breakout session, where CCHI’s Ryan Biehle spoke on being young and the importance of getting health insurance.

Social media, better access to information, and mobile technology seem to be recurring themes in regards to engagement of “Young Invincibles.” I then got the opportunity to speak about my own experience and my thoughts on being at the Symposium; check out the video here:

Day two ended with awarding Elizabeth Arenales, director of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy’s Health Program, with the John K. Iglehart Award for Leadership in Health Policy. “The award recognizes a person whose wisdom, involvement and leadership consistently advanced the cause of health and health care for the people of Colorado.”

Finally, the last day of the Symposium began with VP of Policy, Evaluation, and Communication for the Colorado Health Foundation, Shepard Nevel, recounted the last couple of days and provided an inspiring talk on how changing communities foster change in health and health care. “Spirit, grace, and generosity can change a community, which can change a nation,” Nevel said.  The final panel discussion included the following: Anthony Iton, Senior VP of Healthy Communities for the California Endowment; Rachel MacCleery, Senior VP for the Urban Land Institute; Liz Baxter, Exec. Director for the Oregon Public Health Institute; Prabhjot Singh, of Columbia University; and Manmeet Kaur, Exec. Director of City Health Works. The panel covered many themes including how one’s zip code can negatively or positively affect one’s health, how building healthier apartments and living spaces is made possible in Denver today, and how having local resources, such as ‘Health Coaches,” can all help create stronger, healthier communities. Lastly, Anne Warhover, President and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, gave the closing remarks.

It was a beautiful three days in Keystone! The conversations, networking, and celebrations were all spent for the purpose of having tools to help create a revolution in health and health care policy and advocacy. With it, I hope to continue to support and work towards our mission that all Coloradans have access to quality, affordable health care.

I would like to personally thank the Colorado Health Foundation for allowing me the opportunity to participate in the Symposium, learn, and take back so much with me.

If you wish to have more information, please visit: or email

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