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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.




507 - Everything You Wanted to Know About COVID Rebounds and Weren’t Afraid to Ask with Dr. Amesh Adalja

What’s the difference between COVID reinfection, rebounding, and a new infection? Are people contagious and can they have recurring symptoms with a COVID rebound? Can antivirals like paxlovid cause COVID rebounds? Can paxlovid prevent long COVID? Amesh Adalja returns to the podcast to talk with Josh Sharfstein and answer your questions sent to


506 - A Climate Change Activist Reacts to the Climate Change Bill

President Biden is poised to sign the historic Inflation Reduction Act that will, among other things, enact sweeping changes to the US energy sector and efforts to fight climate change. Tiernan Sittenfeld, the senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters, talks with guest host Shelley Hearne about the bill and its game-changing potential for the environment and public health. They also discuss why major climate legislation has failed in the past and what needs to be done to...


505 - Monitoring the Monkeypox Response with Dr. Caitlin Rivers

Throughout the COVID pandemic, number crunching has been a way to understand and respond to the scope, spread, and spikes of outbreaks. The same goes for monkeypox. Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Rivers talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what numbers should be considered to understand the full picture of the monkeypox outbreak and the effectiveness of the response. They also talk about the current limitations within public health to track down and report necessary data.


504 - Confirming a Wuhan Seafood Market as the Origin of COVID-19

A new report confirms the origins of SARS-CoV-2 as a spillover event from a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Biosecurity expert Gigi Gronvall returns to the podcast to talk with Lindsay Smith Rogers about what we now know happened, why it took so long to pinpoint and confirm COVID’s origins, and why this information is crucial for research and preventing future pandemics. Read the report here.


503 - What’s Happening With COVID Globally—Variants, Second-Generation Vaccines, and a Worrying Flu Season Down South

Vaccine experts Drs. Anna Durbin and Bill Moss return to the podcast to talk with Lindsay Smith Rogers about the global state of COVID-19. They discuss vaccine coverage around the world, second-generation or bivalent vaccines, a new variant of concern, and what a worrying flu season in the southern hemisphere could mean for us this winter.


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.