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.




502 - New Mexico’s Neglected Alcohol Problem

New Mexico has the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths in the US, but the problem is routinely sidestepped at best or, at worst, blamed erroneously on the Native American population. Journalist Ted Alcorn talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the barriers facing New Mexico in tackling alcohol as a public health crisis. Learn more here.


501 - Meeting America’s Public Health Challenge: Recommendations for Building a National Public Health System

The public health system has been fragmented and haphazard for years, and COVID-19 showed just how consequential a weak system can be. Former FDA Commissioner Peggy Hamburg talks with Stephanie Desmon about a Commonwealth Fund report that looks at how to build a national public health system that addresses ongoing and future health crises, advances equity, and earns trust. Learn more here.


500 - How Did Monkeypox Become a Public Health Crisis?

In the 500th episode of the Public Health on Call podcast, Dr. Chris Beyrer joins Dr. Josh Sharfstein to talk about how yet another virus has escalated to crisis levels in a short period of time. They discuss parallels and differences with the early days of the HIV epidemic, the danger of ignoring health challenges facing the developing world, and the future of public health challenges facing societies worldwide.


499 - How States Can Spend Billions From Opioid Litigation to Curb the Opioid Epidemic

Settlements with opioid giants like Purdue, Johnson & Johnson, and Cardinal Health have resulted in billions of dollars paid out to states and municipalities. Sara Whaley, a coordinator for a project called Principles for the Use of Funds from Opioid Litigation, talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about five guidelines these entities can follow to use the funds in ways that will actually address the nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic. Learn more at


498 - Why the Supreme Court Ruling on the EPA Isn’t The End of Fighting Climate Change

​​The recent Supreme Court ruling limiting the EPA’s ability to mandate carbon emissions reductions is a setback but not game over for fighting climate change. Former environmental official Tom Burke talks with Stephanie Desmon about the ruling and about this “perfect storm” moment of extreme weather, a war that’s jacked up oil prices, and a lack of political will to face climate change. They also discuss some things to be hopeful about and what can be done right now to adapt and innovate...


497 - Juul vs. The FDA: The Failed Promise of E-Cigarettes

The FDA recently issued a marketing denial order for all Juul products, which was quickly reversed when Juul filed for a temporary stay. Dr. Joanna Cohen talks with Stephanie Desmon about why e-cigarettes are regulated like cigarettes and not pharmaceuticals despite their initial introduction to the market as a smoking cessation tool, where gains have been made in reducing popularity with youths, and why other tools like nicotine replacement therapy have not been able to live up to their...


496 - The Sharp Rise in Overdose Deaths Among Black Americans

Overdose death rates among Black Americans surpassed those among white Americans in 2020, a sharp reversal from a decade earlier. Hopkins post-doctoral fellows Dr. Keisha Solomon and Dr. Jason Gibbons talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the reasons behind this alarming increase and what can be done to respond.


495 - The Science of Mindfulness

Mindfulness is sometimes seen as a buzzword, but it’s an evidence-based facet key to our physical and emotional well-being. Mindfulness researcher Dr. Christina Bethell talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about the science behind the practice, the connection to resilience, and how mindfulness can help people recover from trauma and adverse childhood experiences. They also discuss some basic practices you can do yourself and Dr. Bethell leads a short breathing exercise. Learn more about her work ...


Bonus — Tradeoffs Special Episode: Struggling to Staff the Nation’s New Crisis Line, 9-8-8

In a special episode Tradeoffs host Dan Gorenstein talks about the nation’s new 9-8-8 crisis line, and how local agencies are struggling to find counselors to staff the Lifeline number. A content warning that this episode mentions suicide and other mental health emergencies. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). Learn more here:


494 - Beyond “Drill and Fill”—Oral Health Is Critical to Overall Health, So Why Isn’t It Considered Part of Medicine?

Oral health extends far beyond cleanings and cavities, but coverage schemes are often considered an extra “benefit” and not a necessity. Dentists Leah Leinbach and Sujay Mehta talk with Stephanie Desmon about why oral health goes way beyond “drill and fill” to impacting overall health, the history behind oral health’s divorce from medicine, and how the importance of including dental care as part of health care is being discussed at a global level.


493 - Development Impact Bonds—An Innovative Approach to Financing Global Public Health Projects

Nonprofits or NGOs often find themselves limited by the terms of available grants, which may be insufficient or too short-term to meet certain needs. Enter development impact bonds, or investments made by a little-known government agency. Dia Martin, a managing director on the social enterprise finance team of the US International Development Finance Corporation talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about these bonds, and two initial projects: a cataract clinic in Cameroon and micro-enterprises for...


492 - Book Club—Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER with Dr. Thomas Fisher

Some of the greatest societal inequities are evident in emergency rooms. ER physician Dr. Thomas Fisher, author of Emergency: A Year of Healing and Heartbreak in a Chicago ER, captures some of these moments during the COVID pandemic, illuminating the intimate relationship between doctors and patients. He talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about his book and about how health care—and ERs in particular—uphold systems of inequity even without intending to, and how providers can try to offer...


Bonus - Microchipping, Conspiracy Theories, Ivermectin, and More: Dr. Josh Sharfstein Answers Viewer Questions Live on C-SPAN

In April, Dr. Josh Sharfstein appeared on the Washington Journal segment of C-SPAN to talk about the podcast and answer questions from callers live on TV. Many of the questions stemmed from misinformation that’s proliferated online, but all COVID questions deserve answers. In this bonus episode, we share some of those questions and Dr. Sharfstein’s responses—live and unscripted.


491 - What’s Happening in Florida? Politics, COVID Vaccines, and the Firing of Dr. Lisa Gwynn

Dr. Lisa Gwynn, president of the Florida chapter of the American Academic of Pediatrics and a professor at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, was fired from a state board for advocating for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5. She talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how politics and misinformation in Florida are contributing to a situation that’s harmful to children’s health and strips away medical choices and access from parents.


490 - Urban Heat Islands: Why Is It So Much Hotter in Cities Than Suburbs?

Lack of green space, abundant concrete, and building materials that trap heat all contribute to why cities are often as much as 10 degrees warmer than surrounding suburbs. Johns Hopkins earth and planetary sciences professor Dr. Ben Zaitchik talks with Stephanie Desmon about urban heat islands which disproportionately affect poorer and minority communities, why heat is known as “the silent killer,” and how investments in urban heat mitigation can help make neighborhoods stronger and safer.


489 - Book Club—Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe with Keith O'Brien

In the late 1970s, residents of a working-class neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York learned their community was built on a toxic waste dump that was causing significant health problems. Keith O’Brien, author of Paradise Falls: The True Story of an Environmental Catastrophe, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what became known as the Love Canal Disaster. The incredible story includes mobilized moms, exploding rocks, a hostage situation, and a young Congressman from Tennessee.


Bonus - Tradeoffs Special Episode: Medical Respite—Too Healthy to be Hospitalized But Too Sick to be Unhoused

In a special episode, Tradeoffs host Dan Gorenstein talks about medical respite, a program for people who are too healthy to be hospitalized but too sick to be without housing. You can listen to this original episode and more at


488 - An Update on Omicron Subvariants with Dr. Andy Pekosz

There are now five versions of omicron circulating, and each subvariant is as distinct as what we used to label totally different variants. Virologist Dr. Andy Pekosz returns to the podcast to talk about the diverse range of omicron siblings, reinfection with different subvariants, omicron-specific vaccines, and what we can expect to see in the coming weeks and months from this “game-changer” variant.


487 - Friday Q&A: Dr. Crystal Watson Returns to Answer Your COVID-19 Questions

Why was smallpox eradicated but COVID-19 can’t be? What do we know about the risks of long COVID and omicron? Is it ok to use expired rapid tests? Is it more likely to get severe COVID from someone who is unvaccinated? Should people who continue to test positive after taking paxlovid be treated again? Dr. Crystal Watson of the Center for Health Security returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about your COVID-19 questions - plus a bonus question on where we are with the...


Bonus - A Conversation With a Monkeypox Patient

When Matt Ford, an actor, writer, and video producer in LA, had flu-like symptoms a few weeks ago, he never would have suspected monkeypox if a close contact hadn’t told him they’d tested positive. Still in isolation, Ford talks with Lindsay Smith Rogers about his experience with the disease, where we are in terms of treatment and prevention, and how to lessen stigma towards the LGBTQ community where monkeypox seems to be spreading the fastest.