Public Health On Call-logo

Public Health On Call

Science Podcasts

Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.

Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.


United States


Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.




547 - “Could You Pass the Peace, Please?” How to Handle Difficult Conversations at the Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving dinner can bring tension alongside turkey and this year may feel especially stressful given a highly polarizing political environment. Dr. Conseulo Amat, an expert in peace building at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about some ground rules for peace-building and dialogue, and how to meaningfully engage in difficult conversations with people we love.


BONUS - Oregon’s Measure 114: Reducing Gun Violence by State Referendum

During the midterms, Oregon voters passed Measure 114 which restricts magazine capacity for firearms and requires purchasers to obtain a permit which includes a background check and safety training. Cass Crifasi, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about why this measure is a lifesaving win not only for gun violence solutions and public health, but also for evidence-based advocacy. They also discuss where the measure falls in...


546 - The "Liver Lady"

Today’s episode is all about the liver. Thelma Thiel, founder and chair of The Liver Health Initiative, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about this “silent organ” that, among many roles, removes toxins from what you eat, breathe, and absorb through your skin. They also discuss Thiel’s efforts in advocacy and education—including her talking about the "football-sized" liver with an NFL team.


545 - A Conversation with the "Drug Czar": New Directions for the National Drug Control Strategy

For the first time, a physician—Dr. Rahul Gupta—is directing the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy. Dr. Gupta talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the national strategy to address addiction and overdose, emphasizing treatment and harm reduction, not criminalization.


544 - The Increase in Gun-Related Deaths During the Pandemic

New CDC data shows that during the pandemic, gun-related homicides and suicides surged to record highs. Ari Davis, a researcher at the John Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, talks with Stephanie Desmon about the spikes, some possible contributing factors, and effective public health solutions. ‌


543 - A Global Snapshot of Family Planning and Reproductive Freedom

As advocates from around the world gather at the International Conference on Family Planning in Thailand this week, what’s the state of global reproductive rights? Megan Christofield, a project director and advisor at JHPIEGO, talks with Stephanie Desmon about the accessibility and prevalence of contraceptive use worldwide, where gains have been made and where things have been stagnant or even backslid in the last decade, and some game-changing new contraception options that could help avert...


542 - COVID-19’s Long-term Neurological Problems

Coming into the third year of the pandemic, we now have more data about how COVID affects people in the long term. Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, Chief of Research and Education Service at Veterans Affairs in the St. Louis Health Care System returns to the podcast to talk with Stephanie Desmon about a new study of 150,000 people with COVID-19 that found higher incidence of headaches, seizures, sleep problems, strokes, and other neurological symptoms following even mild or asymptomatic infections. Read...


541 - “There Weren’t Enough Greek Letters”—Keeping Track of COVID-19 Omicron Variants

First we had alpha, beta, and delta, and now we have hundreds of sublineages just from omicron alone. Virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how experts are keeping track of so many variations of SARS-CoV-2, which advantageous mutations most lineages are picking up to help them spread, the clinical impacts on treatments and vaccines, and why COVID-19 is not yet seasonal.


540 - What Happens When the COVID-19 Emergency Declarations End?

First declared in January, 2020 and renewed every 90 days since, the federal COVID-19 public health emergency allows for key flexibilities and funds in response to the pandemic. With the declaration due to expire in January, what are the implications for things like Medicare/Medicaid coverage, and cost and access to vaccines and tests? Jennifer Kates, Senior Vice President and Director of Global Health & HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about the...


539 - When Surges of Respiratory Disease Meet a Mental Health Crisis

Disappointing rates of child and adolescent vaccination for COVID are colliding with an intensifying seasonal storm of viral illnesses including flu and RSV. ERs and pediatric ICU beds are already filling up in some areas and many more kids will miss precious school time on top of pandemic learning loss. Pediatrician Dr. Megan Tschudy talks with Stephanie Desmon about the importance of vaccination in prevention and protection, a worsening child and adolescent mental health crisis, and why...


538 - The Political Determinants of Health

Social determinants of health—such as access to appropriate housing, health care, and transportation—drive massive health disparities in the US, and many are underpinned by politics and policies. Professor and author Daniel Dawes talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about his new book which looks at the role of politics and health, why the “moral case” alone can’t advance change, and how the health of the democratic process is key to a healthier and more equitable future.


537 - Death and Public Health Part II: Environmental Impacts of the Funeral Industry and “Green Burials”

Traditional after-deathcare in the US carries a huge environmental toll from burying toxic embalming chemicals to the carbon footprint of cremation. Samuel Cline Perry, a licensed mortician, professor of mortuary science, and a deathcare educator at Southern Illinois University Carbondale talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about how the funeral industry is evolving with more options for “green burials.” They also discuss new legislation around human composting and why social justice is a key...


536 - Death and Public Health Part I: How to Talk About Death and Dying

Conversations about death and dying between physicians and patients or patients and loved ones are difficult but important. Dr. Jillian Tullis, a professor in Communication at the University of San Diego, talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about why these conversations are important to dying well, some tools for starting the conversation (especially with loved ones who may be resistant to the topic), and some important things to consider when inquiring about someone’s wishes. They also discuss...


535 - Public Health’s Role at the Intersection of Climate Change and Advocacy

Climate change is an urgent existential threat to public health, so why is it still considered a separate issue and how can public health take on more problem solving to address it? “Problem Solver for Public Health” Dr. Judy Monroe, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation, talks with guest host Dr. Shelley Hearne, director of the Johns Hopkins Lerner Center for Public Health Advocacy about lessons learned from tobacco battles, why engaging in politics—but not partisanship—is a crucial...


534 - The Overturning of Roe vs. Wade, 3 Months Later

Dr. Raegan McDonald Mosley, an obstetrician-gynecologist and CEO of Power to Decide, returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the state of reproductive health care 3 months after the overturning of Roe v. Wade. They discuss barriers to access to abortion services, interference with the care of pregnancy, and the challenge posed to US medicine and the health care system.


533 - COVID in Oklahoma

In June 2020, Dr. Dale Bratzler stepped in to serve as the Chief COVID Officer for the University of Oklahoma. He talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about making controversial health and safety decisions in a charged atmosphere, his transition from primary care to public health, and his views on COVID as a long-term issue with far-reaching impacts.


532 - Flint, Jackson, and Beyond: Infrastructure Failures in U.S. Cities

The disastrous water infrastructure issues in Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi are not outliers. Looming failures across water, energy, and transportation systems are threatening dozens of cities. Dr. Marccus Hendricks, director of the Stormwater Infrastructure Resilience and Justice Lab at the University of Maryland, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these emerging challenges.


531 - Redefining the Challenges of Foster Care

Across the country, kids who fall into the foster care system are getting stuck in hospitals and institutions because there’s nowhere for them to go. Molly Tierney, the leader of child welfare work at Accenture, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these heartbreaking scenarios and how change starts with redefining the challenges, as well as what individuals can do in their own communities.


530 - The Devastating Floods in Pakistan and the Role of Climate Change

The unprecedented floods in Pakistan that have killed more than 1,600 people and directly affected 33 million are the result of years of planning failure coming head to head with climate change. In a two-part conversation, Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Dr. Debbie Guha, the head of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters at the Lovain School of Public Health in Belgium about the scale of the disaster and contributing factors, and then to Dr. Ben Zaitchik, a Johns Hopkins...


529 - The Chutzpah of Public Sector Leadership

It’s a difficult time for public sector workers—health departments, social workers, sanitation staff, and more are burned out from doing so much with so little during an intense pandemic. Beth Blauer, associate vice provost for public sector innovation at Johns Hopkins, talks with Josh Sharfstein about contributing factors to the burnout, where there is innovation happening, and ways for public officials to embrace “the chutzpah of leadership.”