On June 23 and 24, SNF Nostos Health brought together health experts, ethicists, architects, artists, civil society leaders, scientists, musicians, and—critically—young people to frame the problems we collectively face in health and scout paths toward solutions. This 2022 iteration of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s (SNF) continually evolving annual summer gathering featured open discussion across disciplines and borders, transformative announcements related to SNF’s grantmaking, and the chance to come together for electrifying concerts, an inspiring run, and an inclusive basketball game at the opera to get energized for the work ahead. All told, a global audience of some 30,000 people joined us at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens for SNF Nostos Health, in addition to those who watched online.
“Achieving better health for all will require listening to new voices, trying out new approaches, and being willing to change the status quo and venture into unfamiliar territory,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “This was the spirit animating both the content and the form of SNF Nostos Health, where young people set the example for the types of honest conversations we so urgently need to have about health. With clarity, humor, and incisive insight, the young participants showed us that a better future is possible with health as its foundation—but also reminded us in no uncertain terms of our obligation to act now and act in a big way to make it so.”
This year’s SNF Nostos, organized in collaboration with journalism nonprofit iMEdD (incubator for Media Education and Development), invited journalists to be a part of the shared journey of discovery through the first dedicated, onsite iMEdD Media Area at SNF Nostos. Media Table events gave journalists a chance to sit down for informal conversation with conference speakers including Andreas Dracopoulos, Yale social scientist Nicholas Christakis, and public sector innovator Beth Blauer together with public health-oriented engineer Lauren Gardner.
Young people provided the connective tissue and—as the people with the longest stake in the future of our health systems—a special impetus for the two-day SNF Nostos Conference on health. Beatrice, Giannis, Mary Ann, Joy, Gerald, and Thibeaux, members of the global SNF Nostos Youth Advisory Committee, played the role of hosts, sharing from their own experiences as a woman in science, as a refugee, as human beings with health care needs. The culmination of the conference was an SNF Dialogues discussion—curated and moderated by iMEdD Managing Director, SNF Dialogues Executive Director, and journalist Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou—where they gathered to talk about how they use social media and look out for their mental wellbeing while doing it. Sixteen young people from South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Greece served as the official radio voice of the event through SNF Nostos Pop-Up Radio, organized by the Children’s Radio Foundation in collaboration with Radio Panteion, capturing the atmosphere and sharing their own takes on the topics of discussion.
The backdrop for these discussions, laid out in depth at the beginning of the first day, is SNF’s approximately $750 million Health Initiative, which began in Greece with projects in support of public health, including the creation of three pioneering new hospitals in the country’s geographic peripheries, but has since gone global. At the conference, three major new grants totaling over $200 million were announced as part of the Initiative to longstanding SNF partners in New York—The Rockefeller University, Columbia University, and the Child Mind Institute—to establish three new centers of knowledge and practice to fight mental health struggles and infectious disease worldwide. A new partnership was also announced with the U.S. Green Building Council, Green Business Certification Inc., and Arc Skoru Inc. to establish a new standard and means for certifying that a building is ready for a zero-carbon future. The three SNF hospitals under development in Greece already aim for the highest level of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and will moreover serve as prototypes for this new international zero-carbon benchmark—a global first in the field of hospital design.
Between this starting point on the Health Initiative and the culminating Dialogues discussion, panels, talks, and a range of other activities touched on topline health topics like inequality in access to care and (mis)trust in science, as well as less familiar subjects like the use of psychedelics in mental health treatments and assistive technologies for people with disabilities. Making the audience active participants in the conversation, the sessions gauged their opinions on bioethical issues through a live poll, both talked about and demonstrated the unifying power of music, and showed inclusion in action in a basketball game on the stage of the Greek National Opera organized in collaboration with Field of Life and Special Olympics. This last featured Special Olympics athletes, members of the Greek National Deaf Basketball Team, and other Greek champions: Giannis Bourousis, Margarita Malama, Evina Maltsi, Giorgos Papagiannis, and Giorgos Printezis. Bite-sized dives into fascinating topics and a physical glossary of health terms to make sure everyone was speaking the same language helped make the conference accessible to all audiences.
Around 1,100 people attended the SNF Nostos Conference, of whom 55 were high school students from around Greece participating in The Tipping Point’s Health Literacy program with support from SNF. In parallel with the conference sessions, participants engaged with interactive art installations, virtual reality experiences, and exhibitions shedding light on public health. The exhibitions included among others: An Interactive Global Health Data Experience from Johns Hopkins University, A Template of Future Hospitals by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, and Remote Pulse and Recorded Assembly by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. Wish Peace in Mind, a photographic exhibition by Theodore Nikolaou, will be up through the end of July.
Evening activities following each day of the conference brought us all together to get blood pumping and hearts thumping. The popular sunset race organized by nonprofit Regeneration & Progress, the SNF Nostos Run: Running into the Future, saw 4,294 people, including 95 Special Olympics athletes, take over the streets to get active and raise €32,546 for youth music outreach programs from Polyphonica and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Ioannites. A performance by Locomondo took us back to moments of carefree fun, and Jorja Smith, Masked Wolf, and Good Job Nicky gave indelible performances that signaled the true start of summer.
Each evening, the night sky lit up with an enchanting, almost surreal sight: nearly 350 illuminated drones swirling and hovering with pinpoint precision to form dazzling displays related to the theme of health and humanity. A laser show and DJ sets in the SNFCC Agora put the perfect cap on two illuminating, engaging, inspiring days.
A huge thank you to everyone who took part in SNF Nostos Health: the incredible speakers, guests who traveled to Athens from around the world, everyone who attended events in person at the SNFCC, all those who followed along online, and above all the young people who played an integral role in shaping and setting the tone for the event.
Join us on June 21-23, 2023, at a location to be announced soon, for the next iteration of SNF Nostos, focusing on a key issue of our time: mental health.