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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.




235 - Rethinking the US COVID-19 Response

Today’s episode is audio from a webcast recorded last week with two members of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board. In a conversation moderated by Global Health NOW’s Brian Simpson, infectious disease and epidemiology expert Dr. Celine Gounder and public health policy expert Loyce Pace talk about the challenges the new administration faces coming into the COVID-19 crisis with millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths, a significant number of Americans who deny the...


235 - COVID-19 and Senior Housing

There are more than two million federally-subsidized apartments, units, and homes designated for senior housing. These communities, which tend to serve lower-income racial and ethnic minorities, have unique opportunities and challenges compared to assisted living and nursing care facilities and have been largely overlooked in the COVID-19 response. Juliana Bilowich, director of Housing Operations and Policy at Leading Age, and Shanna Dell, the lead infection control adviser on the outbreak...


234 - State Health Departments and Vaccine Distribution Challenges

What accounts for the sluggish rollout of COVID-19 vaccines? Dr. Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the challenges states are facing with vaccine distribution, what’s working and not working well so far, and why there are reasons for hope in the coming months.


233 - Why There Are Fewer COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in Cantabria, Spain Than the Rest of the Country

Urban areas in Spain have been hard hit by COVID, but the rural northern state of Cantabria has fared much better thanks to a strong public health approach. Dr. Paloma Navas, former director general for public health in the region, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the area’s hard-won successes in lower case counts and deaths.


232 - The COVID-19 Variants Explained

What caused the variants seen in the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the UK and elsewhere? Why is the UK variant more contagious? Is it more lethal? Will the current vaccines still work against these variants? Is there anything we should be doing differently to protect ourselves? Expert virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how the virus that causes COVID-19 is changing, and what it means for 2021.


231 - COVID-19 and Low-Income, Undocumented Latino Immigrants

The Latino immigrant community has been hard hit by COVID—in Baltimore, there are sustained positivity rates of up to 30%. Dr. Kathleen Page, medical director of the Johns Hopkins The Access Partnership, talks with Stephanie Desmon about how undocumented and low-income immigrants are caught in a “perfect storm” with conditions for lots of transmission and few ways to seek help. They also talk about how unchecked transmission anywhere means the pandemic will continue to rage, and the culture...


230 - COVID-19 Vaccines and the Opportunity to Build Trust Between Health Care Institutions and the Black Community

Helping members of the Black community get the information they need in order to trust COVID-19 vaccines is a daunting task. But it’s also an opportunity to invest in the health and wellbeing of Black people. Rev. Dr. Terris King, pastor of Liberty Grace Church of God in Baltimore and former Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services minority health director, and Hopkins immunization policy expert Lois Privor-Dumm, talk with Stephanie Desmon about the opportunities the pandemic has brought...


229 COVID-19 Vaccines Q&A: The Two-Dose Strategy, Speeding up Rollouts, and Very Normal Side Effects

With a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, is it a good idea to give people just one dose now and a second dose later when there is more available? How can the process of rolling out vaccines be sped up? What do we know about potential side effects? Which vaccine should I get? Immunologist Dr. Gigi Gronvall from the Center for Health Security talks with Stephanie Desmon to answer these questions and more about COVID-19 vaccines.


228 - Health Commissioner Dr. Monica Bharel on Massachusetts’ Unique Approach to COVID-19 Vaccine Rollouts

States are rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to “high risk groups” but there’s a lot of nuance in how “high risk” is defined. Dr. Monica Bharel, health commissioner of Massachusetts, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the state’s unique approach, which includes prioritizing communities impacted by institutional racism and those with disproportionately high numbers of COVID infections. Dr. Bharel also talks about what the state is doing to go beyond just making the vaccine available to support...


227 Psychological Distress Among Latinos During COVID-19

COVID-19 is having dangerous impacts on mental health in the US with more than 14% of all adults meeting the criteria for serious psychological distress. These numbers are even higher among Latinos with more than 19% of adults experiencing distress. Dr. Margarita Alegria, chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, and Hopkins mental health and policy researcher Dr. Beth McGinty talk with guest host Dr. Colleen Barry about mental health and wellbeing nine months...


226 - COVID-19 in Assisted Living Facilities and the Special Challenges with Alzheimer’s Disease

Assisted living facilities are small, congregate settings that make infection control measures harder to implement. These facilities also care for a large proportion of residents with Alzheimer’s disease—a challenge for enforcing guidance like mask wearing, hand washing, and social distancing. Dr. Morgan Katz, a Hopkins geriatrician and infectious disease specialist, and Shanna Dell, lead infection control adviser on the outbreak team of the Baltimore City Health Department talk with Dr....


225 - The Challenges With Communicating COVID-19 Prevention Measures

Communicating evidence-based COVID-19 prevention measures like mask-wearing and hand washing has been a challenge. What’s further complicated buy-in are public health officials and politicians creating policies that are not backed in science like closing parks in Spain or banning the sale of open-toed shoes in South Africa. Science journalist Roxanne Khamsi talks with Stephanie Desmon about the harm of imposing policies that aren’t evidence-based. They also discuss the consequences of trying...


BONUS: Backstage at Public Health On Call

What goes into Public Health On Call? Had you ever hosted a podcast before? Who would you most want to interview? Have there been any "oops" moments? Public Health On Call, which has been downloaded more than 3 million times since March, receives a lot of questions from our dedicated listeners. For this special bonus episode—and our last of 2020—producer Lindsay Smith Rogers asks co-hosts Josh Sharfstein and Stephanie Desmon questions from our curious listeners.


224 - COVID-19 Q&A featuring Drs. Josh Sharfstein and Caitlin Rivers

Why do COVID-19 vaccines require two doses? Will I still have to wear a mask and social distance once I get the vaccine? If my friends and I had COVID, can we get together for the holidays? Are people who wear a face covering with their nose exposed at higher risk of getting COVID? Dr. Josh Sharfstein and Dr. Caitlin Rivers answered frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and vaccines sent to


223 Dr. Michael Osterholm on Rising Cases, Vaccine Rollouts, and Getting Through What is Both “The Best and Worst of Times” in the COVID-19 Pandemic

While there’s light at the end of the tunnel with the first COVID vaccines being administered to US health care workers, the next few months will be difficult in terms of sickness and loss of life. Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert and part of President-Elect Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board, talks with Stephanie Desmon about the critical place we’re in now, the sacrifices necessary for this “COVID Christmas,” and ways to safely get as many people as possible to a time with...


222 - Overdose and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Harm Reduction Movement

As part of a periodic series on overdose and the pandemic, guest host Susan Sherman speaks with Monique Tula, executive director of the National Harm Reduction Coalition, and Louise Vincent, executive director of the North Carolina Survivor’s Union about the role of harm reduction in both the COVID and overdose crises. In an extended conversation, Tula and Vincent talk about harm reduction as a strategy for reducing suffering among people who use drugs, centering health and dignity in...


221 - Why COVID-19 Cases in Africa Are Much Lower Than Expected

Thanks to an early warning system that was put in place for Ebola and other infectious disease outbreaks, countries across Africa acted swiftly to respond to COVID-19—actions that have resulted in many fewer cases and deaths than in other parts of the world. Tolbert Nyenswah, former Deputy Minister of Health for Liberia, talks with Stephanie Desmon about Africa’s experience during the pandemic.


220 - Overdose and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Breaking Through Bureaucracy With High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area

As part of a periodic series on overdose and the pandemic, guest host Susan Sherman speaks with Chauncey Parker, director of the New York/New Jersey High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. HIDTA is a federally funded program that invests in public safety and public health partnerships designed to “bring everyone to the table” in unique collaborations that help facilitate better policy and data collection. Parker also talks about how COVID-19 has—and hasn’t—impacted the drug market in New York.


BONUS: Public Health On Call—Season 3 Trailer

The Public Health On Call podcast is wrapping up Season Two with our final episode on December 18. We’ll return for Season Three on January 4 with more evidence and experts to help unpack the days COVID-19 and public health news. Listen here for more on what’s to come.


219 - What Went Wrong? The CDC and COVID-19

The CDC has been hailed as the world’s leading public health agency, but throughout the COVID-19 pandemic—a time when the agency should have been leading the charge—its responses have fallen short of expectations. Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska and a former top CDC official, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what went wrong despite decades of preparation. Dr. Khan also shares what needs to happen for the agency to regain credibility and...