Declaring victory over a disease can be easier than meeting survivors’ needs.
The series finale of “Epidemic: Eradicating Smallpox” is a visit to the home of Rahima Banu, the last person with a documented case of naturally occurring variola major smallpox. When the virus was declared eradicated, she became a symbol of one of the greatest victories in global public health. What happened to Rahima Banu afterward?
What good is a vaccine when there is no rice? Episode 7 of “Eradicating Smallpox” explores the barriers public health workers face in communities where people’s basic needs aren’t being met.
Trust is hard to build and easy to break. In Episode 6 of the “Eradicating Smallpox” podcast, meet Chandrakant Pandav, a health worker who used laughter and song to try to rebuild trust with communities harmed by India’s sometimes violent and coercive family planning campaign.
Episode 5 of the “Eradicating Smallpox” podcast explores how a partnership between public health institutions and a huge, influential private company was key in the campaign to eliminate smallpox.
A conversation about how the lessons from the victory over smallpox could be applied to public health challenges today.
KFF Health News and California Healthline staff made the rounds on national and local media this week to discuss their stories. Here’s a collection of their appearances.
In Bangladesh, smallpox eradication workers went to great lengths to vaccinate even one person, sometimes traveling by speedboat, crossing rickety bamboo bridges or leech-infested paddy fields. Episode 4 of the “Eradicating Smallpox” podcast is about what it takes to bring care directly to people where they are.
In the early 1970s, public health workers buoyed by the motto “zero pox!” worked across India to achieve 100% vaccination against smallpox. This episode is about what happened when these zealous young people encountered hesitation.
Who gets credit for wiping smallpox from the planet? American men have been widely recognized while the contributions of South Asian public health workers have been less celebrated. Episode 2 of the “Eradicating Smallpox” podcast tells the story of Mahendra Dutta, an Indian public health leader, whose political savvy helped usher in a transformative approach to finding and containing smallpox cases.
To defeat smallpox in South Asia, public health workers had to navigate the region’s layered cultural ideas about the virus. They also dreamed big. In Episode 1, host Céline Gounder wonders how the U.S. might tap into similar “moral imagination” to prepare for the next public health crisis.
Many people working in global health thought eradicating smallpox was impossible. They were wrong. Season 2 of the Epidemic podcast, “Eradicating Smallpox,” is a journey to South Asia during the last days of variola major smallpox. Explore the timeline to learn about significant dates in the final push to end the virus.