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Public Health On Call

Author: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Evidence and experts to help you understand today’s public health news—and what it means for tomorrow.
339 Episodes
For some, the pandemic has been a “perfect storm” in terms of unhealthy eating resulting in the “quaran-ten” or the COVID "19 pounds." Dr. Elena Jansen and Dr. Susan Carnell, two Johns Hopkins obesity researchers, talk with Stephanie Desmon about how COVID-related stress—combined with being at home more—has impacted our bodies and health behaviors during the pandemic. They also talk about how the pandemic has a silver lining for some families’ eating habits and give their take on where pandemic eating is heading in the long term, for better or worse.
Stopping gun violence requires more than thinking about policies and programs that focus on guns alone. Dr. Shani Buggs, a professor with the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how community-based violence prevention programs identify those most at risk of being involved in violence and connect them to services that can help them solve problems and stay safe. They also talk about the evidence for these programs and their growing popularity across the country.
Vaccinations are seen as the primary tool to prevent COVID-19 infections, but are there other things we should be doing to bring down transmission rates? Dr. Caitlin Rivers and Dr. Crystal Watson from the Center for Health Security return to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about where we are, what still needs to be done, and when they'll know that the pandemic is truly in the rearview mirror.
We last heard from Matt Hornbeck—longtime principal of Hampstead Hill Academy, a K-8 school in Baltimore city—in the fall for an update on how the school community was faring with online learning. Hornbeck returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the school's recent reopening to more than 500 students for in-person instruction. Does it feel the same?
India is in the throes of the world’s worst COVID-19 infection with overwhelmed health systems and a shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, testing, and medications. Dr. Amita Gupta, chair of the Johns Hopkins India Institute, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director of All India Institute of Medical Service in New Delhi, and Dr. Gagandeep Kang, professor of microbiology at Christian Medical College in India, talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about this ”unprecedented public health disaster” and what needs to be done to address the crisis.
At the onset of the pandemic, the world’s family planning community worried about the impact COVID-19 would have on access to contraception and unintended pregnancies in lower- and middle-income countries. Dr. Phil Anglewicz and Dr. Caroline Moreau of Performance Monitoring for Action talk with Stephanie Desmon about what some initial research says about impacts on contraceptive use and access, what is still unknown, and what the concerns are—especially for young girls facing economic hardship and food instability during the pandemic.
India produces much of the world’s vaccines in normal times, and even produced enough COVID-19 vaccines that it was donating doses to poorer countries earlier this year. So how did a vaccine powerhouse with an existing distribution infrastructure end up with one of the world’s worst COVID crises? Dr. Anita Shet of the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center talks with Stephanie Desmon about India’s vaccine situation, what the crisis could mean for the supply of other critical vaccines, and what needs to be done to stem the outbreak.
Ghost guns are firearms that can be made at home from kits or 3D printed parts. They’re unregulated and untraceable, meaning no background check is required to purchase them. Dr. Alex McCourt, a public health lawyer with the Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, talks with Stephanie Desmon about why these guns are so dangerous, what we know and don’t know about their use in violent crimes, and Biden’s proposal for ATF regulation.
Canada is experiencing a serious wave of COVID infections with the majority from variants of concern like B.1.1.7. British Columbia currently has one of the highest rates of P.1 outside of Brazil itself where the variant was first discovered. Dr. Brian Goldman, the host of two CBC podcasts and a clinician at Sinai Health System in Toronto, returns to the podcast to talk with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about the factors that contributed to Canada’s COVID crisis, including logistical issues with distributing vaccines.
India is in the throes of the world’s worst COVID-19 infection with overwhelmed health systems, and a shortage of oxygen, hospital beds, testing, and medications. Dr. Amita Gupta, chair of the Johns Hopkins India Institute, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how this ”unprecedented public health disaster” snuck up on the country after they successfully controlled the first wave back in the fall. They also discuss what needs to be done to address the crisis, and how you as an individual can help. Note: Please consider donating to the following organizations:
The recent mass shooting in Indianapolis sparked a national conversation about “red flag” laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders. Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Dr. Shannon Frattaroli of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy, and Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence about ERPOs and what went wrong in Indiana, and what needs to be done to implement laws effectively that keep firearms from people at high risk of harming themselves or others.
Lancaster County is home to one of the largest Amish and Mennonite, or “Plain”, communities in the US. In the last year, it’s estimated that 90% of families had a case of COVID-19 in their household, but experts don’t know for sure how widespread infections were because of a lack of testing data. Reporter Nicole Brambila talks with Stephanie Desmon about the challenges of getting Plain families to adopt public health measures, and how past experiences from polio and measles outbreaks can offer insights for rallying the communities to get vaccinated.
Early in the vaccine rollouts, 14 clinics in the San Francisco Health Network texted their most vulnerable patients a webform to sign up for COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Dr. Anna Robert, director of primary care, talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about how the webform went viral with people from all over the Bay area taking appointments meant for specific individuals, how the clinics addressed the situation, and what they learned about outreach to patients who most need the vaccine but may be hesitant to sign up.
In this episode, Dr. Josh Sharfstein talks with Hopkins researchers who break down three papers looking at reinfection. Dr. Sheree Schwartz, an epidemiologist, talks about a CDC paper on reinfections in a single Kentucky nursing home. Henri Garrison-Desany, a doctoral student in epidemiology, talks about two papers: a Lancet paper from Denmark and one in the Journal of Infection from Brazil. These researchers are part of the Hopkins novel coronavirus research consortium, with many summaries of new studies available at
COVID is creating massive environmental issues such as the 1.56 billion face masks that entered the oceans in 2020 alone. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, the Director of Research for Oceans Asia, talks with Stephanie Desmon about how improperly discarded PPE to a massive rise in the production of single-use plastics are setting the world significantly back in controlling its problem with microplastics and pollution.
61 million Americans have a disability yet most haven’t been prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines. And while eligibility has opened up across the nation, there remain significant barriers for people with disabilities to get appointments. Maria Town, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities talks with Stephanie Desmon about how COVID has exacerbated longstanding gaps in health equity for people with disabilities, and also some silver linings of the pandemic that she hopes will remain.
Across the country, COVID case rates are going up and public health officials are racing to get vaccines in arms. Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore City’s Health Commissioner, talks with Stephanie Desmon about the unique ways the city is trying to reach those at highest risk including mobile vaccination teams. They also talk about this critical point in the pandemic, how vaccine questions are not limited to one specific racial or minority group, and the importance not only of reliable public health messaging but of creating equitable access points to reduce barriers to getting vaccinated.
The race between vaccines and variants has to be won globally, but at the current rate, much of the world won’t reach herd immunity until 2023. Congressman Jake Auchincloss from Massachusetts talks with Stephanie Desmon about the immediate need to address manufacturing bandwidth and the opportunity for the US to lead production. They also discuss the US’s obligation to maintain a healthy and thriving economy by investing in global public health infrastructure, and how this could help restore the US’s image as a moral leader in times of crisis. You can read Auchincloss’s CNN op-ed here: Please note: This conversation was recorded on April 5.
This week, the FDA paused the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine because of reports of six women under 50 who developed a rare form of blood clots called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis. Today, Stephanie Desmon talks with Dr. Josh Sharfstein about what this means for vaccine rollouts, vaccine hesitancy, and what might happen next. This bonus episode has been lifted from yesterday’s Facebook live which can be seen at
There are psychological and cognitive obstacles to compassion, especially against an invisible virus. Dr. Paul Slovic, a psychology professor at the University of Oregon, and his son Dr. Scott Slovic, a literature professor at the University of Idaho talk with guest host Dr. Colleen Barry about the psychic numbing that occurs when considering large-scale crisis like genocide, climate change, and COVID-19. They also discuss pandemic literature and what it’s like to work together as father and son from two seemingly different disciplines.
Comments (6)


Best podcast for covid information. Comprehensive, experienced guests for getting true data and updates, best practices.

Jan 29th

Ava Goudarznia

thanks for your information

Jan 14th

Cara Dooley

Reminder that "unsuccessfully attempted suicide" is not preferred language. Would suggest "survived a suicide attempt" or something to that effect. Death by suicide is not success. Great piece tho.

Oct 23rd


Thank you for this excellent episode on racism. Your discussion of how change and re-evaluation of public health delivery, and the use of more comprehensive data collection gives me hope. i am grateful for this podcast.

Jul 1st


Such a great podcast. I begin here daily. Highly recommended and trustworthy.

Jun 18th

msd jfl


Mar 10th
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