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International News

PBS Miniseries "Rx for Survival" Examines Global Health Successes, Challenges

November 1, 2005

PBS beginning Tuesday will air "Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge," a six-part miniseries examining how public health discoveries that have more than doubled life expectancy in developed countries over the past 100 years are not being utilized to stop the spread of preventable diseases in developing countries. The series, which is produced by the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit and Vulcan Productions, was filmed in more than 20 nations, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Merck Company Foundation and developed in partnership with the Global Health Council and other global health organizations and individuals. Summaries of the episodes appear below.

  • "Disease Warriors" profiles the work of early researchers, including Louis Pasteur, who developed the first vaccines.

  • "Rise of the Superbugs" chronicles the development of medications and the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases, such as tuberculosis.

  • "Delivering the Goods" explores a paradox of global health: most of the deadliest diseases can be prevented, treated or cured, but millions of people still die from them because of a lack of access to medications and public health resources.

  • "Deadly Messengers" profiles efforts by scientists and health workers over the last 25 years to control virus spread by mosquitoes and other vector-borne diseases, including malaria.

  • "Back to the Basics" reports on the connections between the spread of preventable diseases in developing countries and the lack of nutrition, clean water and sanitation, as well as problems caused by overconsumption, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.

  • "How Safe Are We?" examines the emergence of 30 new infectious diseases over the past few decades, the speed at which new diseases travel around the world and the return of diseases that were once controlled.

The series' companion Web site includes an atlas of factors influencing global health around the world, descriptions of infectious diseases, dispatches by health care workers about global health experiences, information about the politics of global health, an interactive "ask the experts" forum, and educational materials for middle and high school teachers and students. The episodes, which are narrated by actor Brad Pitt, will air on PBS on Tuesday through Thursday evenings from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET (PBS release, 11/1). A video preview of the series is available online in RealPlayer.

NPR Global Health Reports
In partnership with the series, NPR this week on its nationally syndicated programs will air several reports on "some of the most urgent emerging health issues." Summaries of some of the special reports published to date appear below.

  • NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday": The segment reports on scientists in Brazil working to develop a vaccine for hookworm, a chronic infection that causes anemia and malnutrition (Palca, "Weekend Edition Saturday," NPR, 10/29). A transcript of the segment and a gallery of related photos are available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

  • NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday": The segment profiles the Flying Doctors, a medical service that airlifts residents of remote areas during medical emergencies, and their work providing increased access to specialty care in Kenya (Wilson, "Weekend Edition Sunday," NPR, 10/30). A related multimedia presentation is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

  • NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment profiles a factory in Ghana, the first country to receive a grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, producing medications to fight HIV/AIDS (Harris, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/31). The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

  • NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment examines how some organizations are fighting "manmade" problems, such as hunger and disease, in Africa (Quist-Arcton, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/31). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.

Expanded NPR coverage of the global health special reports is available online.

TIME Special Section
TIME magazine in its Nov. 7 issue published a special section of articles on global health, including profiles of international health "heroes." Headlines for the articles appear below.

Global Health Media Education Project
Additional companion elements of the Rx for Survival project introduced this week include:

  • Global health articles in TIME's international and TIME for Kids editions;

  • The TIME Global Health Summit, an international meeting for health experts and policymakers. Biographies of scheduled speakers are available online.

  • A companion book on the issues published by Penguin Press; and

  • An undergraduate global health curriculum developed by Johns Hopkins University and available for enrollment by fall semester 2006 (PBS release, 11/1).

In addition, the series will be released on DVD in January and distributed to U.S. schools, Toronto's Globe and Mail reports (Ryan, Globe and Mail, 10/29). Online Chats this week will host several online chats related to the series:

  • Philip Hilts, author of "Rx for Survival: Why We Must Rise to the Global Health Challenge," is scheduled to discuss the first episode of the series on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. A transcript of the chat will be available online.

  • Andrea and Barry Coleman, who are featured in the episode "Delivering the Goods," are scheduled to discuss the series on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET. A transcript of the chat will be available online.

  • Alfred Sommer, professor and former dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is scheduled to discuss the series on Friday at 2 p.m. ET. A transcript of the chat will be available online. To Webcast Select Summit Sessions Live will provide webcasts of select sessions from the TIME Global Health Summit, including the following live webcasts.

Tuesday, Nov. 1:

  • 2:15 p.m. ET -- Press conference on American faith communities fighting for global health
  • 5:00 p.m. ET -- Summit Welcome
  • 5:30 p.m. ET -- The Case for Optimism

Wednesday, Nov. 2:
  • 10:00 a.m. ET -- Press conference with Measles Initiative partners
  • 10:40 a.m. ET -- How Do We Prepare for the Next Plague?
  • 11:15 a.m. ET -- Why Do 10 Million Children Have to Die?
  • 2:35 p.m. ET -- Press conference with Bill Gates of the Gates Foundation and Jim Kelly, managing editor of TIME
  • 4:00 p.m. ET -- Keynote address with former President Clinton and Gates

Thursday, Nov. 3:
  • 10:25 a.m. ET -- Funding -- Who, How Much and What For?
  • 11:20 a.m. ET -- How Do We Get from Here to There?

Additional information on these sessions and other sessions that will be archived is available online.

Back to other news for November 1, 2005

Reprinted with permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2005 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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