World Health Day

Over the years, public media has had a lot to say about health — not surprising, given that few issues are more universally important to the American public. For World Health Day, we’re highlighting some health-related programs and series available in the Online Reading Room.

Our collection goes back to 1947 and the last-ever outbreak of smallpox in America, documented by WNYC in “MUNI: Smallpox in New York City” and “MUNI: Dr. Israel Weinstein Smallpox Message.” A decade later, WNYC brought in a more high-profile guest to make the pitch for public health in “MUNI: Eleanor Roosevelt as a Disk Jockey for WNYC,” a musical fundraiser for the March of Dimes.

Public media has often reported from the forefront of medical science. From 1960-1961, WUOM and the National Association of Educational Broadcasters ran a series of programs “developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research.” Covering topics from “Epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis” to “Emotional Health and Aging” the series provided a thoughtful look at medical issues of the time. For a more modern take, WEDU’s “Smart Health” series from 2008 offered upbeat stories about medical advances in bite-sized magazine segments.

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Not all coverage of America’s healthcare community has been so positive. Pacifica Radio Archives’ “People’s Health and Fascism,” recorded at the Black Panther Party’s United Front Against Fascism conference, begins “We’ve seen how the medical community in this country is the embodiment of all that is evil!” While that’s an opinion on the extreme end of the spectrum, public media has frequently debated hot-button healthcare issues and given voice to America’s fears and worries about their health care system.

Concerns about pharmaceuticals and drug abuse appear in programs such as “The Benefits, Risks, and Costs of Prescription Drugs” (WILL’s Focus) and “The Medicine Cabinet Addict” (WUED’s Woman.) Programs like “Foreign Immigrants and US Health Care” (WGBH’s Forum Network) and “What Are the Healthcare Problems in the African American Community?” (WHUT’s Evening Exchange) provide voices to those who frequently slip through the cracks of the healthcare system. And, of course, there’s the longstanding and ongoing debate on health care reform, discussed in practically every state in the union: “We the People: Health Care Reform on Trial,” from Wisconsin Public Television; “Health Care Reform: A Louisiana Perspective” from Louisiana Public Broadcasting; “Civic Dialogue: Health Care Crisis” from KUED; and “Health of the Nation: Coverage for All Americans” from WGBH Forum Network, just to name a few.

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For those who want a break from the stresses and messes of western medicine, public media has you covered on DIY options too: WERU’s “Herbal Update” provides short overviews on the health and nutrition benefits of specific herbs and plants (though only the ones legal in Maine in the 1990s.)

And don’t forget to check out this week’s featured Vision Maker Media film, “The Creek Runs Red,” which portrays the conflict that arises when the place you call home becomes deeply hazardous to your health.

Visit our site to browse through all 1100+ currently available health-related items in the AAPB.

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