Making Big Bets: How To Change Your Life & The World

Episode 807 1h 12m


The world is facing several big challenges today—the climate crisis, food insecurity, racial injustice, the rise of AI, and insufficient access to healthcare, to name just a few.

Today on The Doctor’s Farmacy, I am excited to talk to Dr. Rajiv Shah about how large-scale change really happens, the success and lessons he has learned throughout his career, and why we need big bets—large, bold actions—in order to solve the world’s greatest challenges. We kick off our conversation by talking about some of the most successful big bets Rajiv has been a part of and the impact they’ve had on communities around the world. He played an integral role in the effort to vaccinate 900 million children in developing countries.

At the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under President Obama, he led the U.S. response to the Haiti earthquake and the West African Ebola pandemic. Now, as president of the Rockefeller Foundation, he oversees the global institution in its mission to promote the well-being of humanity around the world. Together, one of the big bets we have been working on is how to address the chronic disease epidemic and the problems within our food system.

Six out of 10 Americans have a chronic disease, four out of 10 have more than one, 93% are metabolically unhealthy, 75% are overweight, 42% are obese, and depression and mental illness are on the rise. Rajiv and I discuss why rates of chronic disease in the United States are so much higher than every other country on the planet and what big bets we can make to tackle this issue.

Too often, people hesitate when committing to solving a big problem. The sheer magnitude of what it will take—the high costs, the complexities, the daunting scale—causes them to step back. Rajiv and I discuss some tools to help identify a big bet, pick a pathway forward, and maintain the momentum and confidence necessary to keep moving forward. We also talk about some of the big bets that the Rockefeller Foundation is focused on, from climate change to school meal programs and food as medicine.

The Rockefeller Foundation is working to help deliver nutritious food to children and their families while advancing policies to transform the U.S. food system and improve health outcomes for everyone. They have also made a billion-dollar commitment to accelerate the fight against climate change. I hope this conversation leaves you feeling inspired and empowered to make a difference.


This episode is brought to you by Rupa Health, Pendulum, MitoPure, and Thrive Market. The Doctor’s Farmacy podcast works with a select group of sponsors to allow for ongoing production and allow it to be zero-cost to anyone who wishes to listen to and watch the podcast.

Topics Covered

  • How Rajiv was inspired by Nelson Mandela in his youth


  • The first crisis Rajiv dealt with as the head of USAID


  • Tackling the chronic disease epidemic with food as medicine


  • Addressing rising obesity rates in America


  • The importance of believing change is possible


  • What makes the standard American diet so unhealthy?


  • Investing in weight-loss drugs vs quality food


  • The importance of finding the right partners to make meaningful change


  • Finding happiness through service to others


  • Rajiv’s next big bets


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Resources Mentioned

Host & Guests


Automatically generated. Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Introduction: Coming up on this episode of the Doctor's Pharmacy,

Dr. Rajiv Shah: It is shocking to me how often people just simply don't believe something is possible, and that's the first step.

Dr. Mark Hyman: Welcome to the Doctor's Pharmacy. I'm Dr. Mark Hyman. That's farmacy with an f, a place for conversations that matter. And if you've ever wondered how to solve the big problems in the world, I've ever been intimidated by them being too big to think about and just give up. This conversation is going to matter. We're going to talk about how to deal with the real big issues that are facing us today as a society. And we have an extraordinary guest, Rajiv Shah, who's a friend..

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Ep. 807 - Making Big Bets: How To Change Your Life & The World