At the 10th anniversary of Thrive Summit, (April 11-13, 2023), actor, writer, and producer Kal Penn will be sitting down with attendees to explore what the U.S. healthcare system gets wrong – and right. The Virgin Pulse team had a chance to chat with Kal about how his wide-ranging background and interests have affected his perspectives on our nation’s healthcare system and why access to healthcare is more important today than ever before.
VP: It’s clear that you’re very dedicated to helping people be well-educated about how the world works, including healthcare and equitable access to care. What made you want to get involved?
Kal: I think each of us engages with public service in our own way. I’m honored to have had the chance to serve our country the way I did, but I’m equally honored to be in the company of people who volunteer with their respective organizations and get involved in the civic process. It’s actions like these that keep our democracy strong and can push for continual progress.
VP: In addition to your passion for acting and the arts in general, we know you also are deeply interested in political topics – but where does your interest in healthcare stem from?
Kal: I was part of the White House Office of Public Engagement during the passage of the Affordable Care Act. While I didn’t work on policy during that time, the outreach around the lead up to the ACA opened my eyes to the priorities (or lack thereof) we place on and challenges we face with health overall.
VP: How did your time at the White House shape your perspective on our nation’s approach to healthcare?
Kal: One of the things that stood out was the way in which the American media engaged on healthcare. It seemed like cable news pundits were more focused on scaring people, while local news outlets highlighted the stakes of health care access at the local level. That has more to do with the media than healthcare itself, but it was eye opening.
VP: Do you envision our country being able to solve these issues within the next decade? What will it take?
Kal: I am hopeful by nature, and I think some U.S. states have done well with providing healthcare options for their residents. Things like the ACA are also a giant leap forward in a country as politically diverse as ours.
A big thanks to Kal for sharing with us. We look forward to hearing more about your thoughts on health equity and diversity, and getting real about being an Asian actor in Hollywood. Get an all-access pass to Thrive Summit main stage sessions with virtual live stream registration, which closes on April 4. Register here now!