Is public health under siege? And other hot topics with Dr. Georges Benjamin

The Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Dr. Georges Benjamin joins us on the podcast today. We talk about some of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st century like maternal and infant health. We also discuss climate change and why APHA thinks it’s a public health concern.

Dr. Georges Benjamin gets real as he provides a critique of Trump’s State of the Union address to eradicate HIV and AIDS. And to top it all off, we talk about APHA’s recent forum titled, “Public Health Under Siege: Improving Policy in Turbulent Times, “ which featured Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and public health leaders from around the country.

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Chelsea Stallings
Getting to know SiX with Jessie Ulibarri

We all know shows like The West Wing and Veep accurately portray the day-to-day lives of our elected officials. WRONG! Jessie Ulibarri is the executive director at the State Innovation Exchange (Six) and unfortunately, he’s here to tell us government is nothing like what you see on TV. Especially state government.

We talk with Ulibarri about how SiX supports state legislators with tools and resources to pass progressive policies like paid family leave, criminal justice reform, paid sick days, and more. So sit back and crank up the volume as we get to know the State Innovation Exchange.

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Chelsea Stallings
News with friends: Scott Wasserman

We’re trying something new today! We process current events from a public policy and public health perspective with friends of the podcast. And who better to kick this off than Scott Wasserman, president of the Bell Policy Center!

We talk about the 3 M’s on this episode: medicare for all, Marxism, and marijuana. Wait, is that a thing? Probably not but we might patent it. Stay tuned. We also talk about Coloradans running for president, the federal government shutdown, and teacher strikes.

Check out this episode and let us know your thoughts by rating us on iTunes!

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Chelsea Stallings
Science & democracy with Michael J. Thompson

We live in a complicated society. We’re technologically advanced and scientifically complex. And while a world of information is right at our fingertips to help us dissect these convoluted studies, there’s also an abundance of misinformation spreading like wildfire.

Michael J. Thompson, editor of, Anti-Science and the Assault on Democracy, discusses “fake news” around climate change, and outlandish claims about the effects of vaccines. I mean, should we trust those fancy pants scientists? Or are we holding our democracy back because we view science as left or right instead of facts?

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Chelsea Stallings
What states can do to address gun violence with Ari Freilich

Ari Freilich is the staff attorney and California Legislative Affairs Director at the Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence and he joins us this week to talk about, well, guns, gun violence, and preventing gun violence.

The Giffords Center was founded by former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords after she and 18 others were shot at a constituent event in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, AZ.

And whether or not you believe guns kill people or people kill people, Freilich takes us down memory lane as he explains how the 2nd Amendment has evolved from “a well-regulated militia” to something more like “assault weapons for all.”

He also highlights the role of guns in today’s escalating rates of suicide. Most gun-related deaths today are the result of suicide, not homicide. The rising rate of gun-related deaths has also contributed to a drop in life-expectancy for Americans. So why aren’t we considering this a public health crisis?

Don’t worry though. It’s not all sad. We end on a positive note as Freilich discusses policy steps that can be taken at the state level to reduce gun violence. So let’s dive in!

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Chelsea Stallings
Wages and public health with J. Paul Leigh, PhD

How much you earn directly affects your chances at good health. Straightforward enough, right?

Well, sorta. J. Paul Leigh, PhD, Professor of Economics within the Public Health Division at UC-Davis, clues us in this week on how it’s actually a lot more than simple cause-and-effect.

He caught our eye recently when he published a piece with Juan Du on the effects of minimum wage on the population’s health. We chat about the health effects of wages, job satisfaction, and unemployment – and why it’s taken so long for researchers to study all this.

Particularly interesting are the outcomes of a higher wage for lower earners. If they can now buy things that are better for their health, they can also buy things that are worse for their health. So which wins out?

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Ryan Sims
Edgar Villanueva, vicious cycles, and 'Decolonizing Wealth'

Edgar Villanueva has a new book. But more than that, he has a set of solutions to the pernicious problem of white men controlling the flow of philanthropic money in our country.

His solutions are rooted in Native wisdom and he’s a member of the Lumbee Tribe, hailing originally from North Carolina.

We discuss how foundations are stuck in vicious cycles, often reluctant to engage in upending a system that generated their wealth in the first place. And when it comes to health, they’re often stuck on an endless carousel of being hesitant to solve the public policy issues that created the health problems that the foundation was set up to fix in the first place.

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Ryan Sims
Marion Nestle and the politics of food, sugar, scientific research, and public health

Author, professor, and general public health force-of-nature, Marion Nestle, joins us this week.

Her newest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, examines the influence that food companies exert on the research that tags their products as healthy or not. As you might imagine, when food companies fund research, the results often come out looking prettttttttttty good for those companies.

Marion also shares some fascinating anecdotes, including how the how the Russian hack of John Podesta’s emails during the 2016 presidential election turned out to have a connection back to her and the Coca-Cola Company.

She’s the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University. She is also a professor of Sociology at NYU and a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University.

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Ryan Sims
Fear and its affect on public health

Three researchers are the first people to study how living in fear changes our health. How do you measure such a thing? What contributes to a person’s fears? What’s the political climate’s affect on fear, especially with constant threats of mass deportation and repeatedly stoked fears of crime?

Another dispatch from the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, we join Marie-Claude Couture, Dellanira Garcia, and Erin Grinshteyn of the University of San Francisco to examine how fear is damaging our chances at healthy lives.

With American life expectancy declining for the third straight year and substance use causing much of the decline, join our critical conversation to find out how fear is ratcheting up substance use rates and hurting our health in many other ways.

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Ryan Sims
What Black women can teach us about health

From a giant (echoey) conference room at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, Jake sits down with Linda Blount, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.

Linda explains BWHI’s mission of reducing health disparities for Black women and fills us in on what we can learn from Black women about the public’s health. She’s got fascinating thoughts as well on how we sell public health like companies sell products, that is, how we make people want better health.

Linda also joins in to bust some health myths – you know we love that – and brings the politics as well. With Black women more-or-less always saving the electoral chances of Democratic candidates, why aren’t those Democrats delivering for Black women? And what can we do about it?

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Ryan Sims
Taking on 'traffic violence' in New York City

Transportation Alternatives advocates for New York City’s streets to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists. They’ve got to navigate both the difficult physical and political terrain in their quest to make the city safe for residents who want to commute by walking and biking.

How do you organize to move elected officials? How do you change the characterization of injuries and deaths from “accidents” into “traffic violence?”

Transportation Alternatives Director of Advocacy Thomas Devito joins us to chat about the future of active transportation in the country’s biggest city.

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Ryan Sims
Rich Pelletier and what's next for Bernie Sanders

Last night, Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives after a campaign waged on the issue of health care and as a check on President Trump.

With midterm-induced change ringing in our head, we check in with Rich Pelletier, who was Bernie Sanders’s National Field Director.

What’s next for Bernie? How did Bernie manage to so substantially outperform expectations? What do voters really want in the next presidential candidate?

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Ryan Sims
Intro/Brad Woodhouse

Hey! It’s officially time for the Wooden Teeth to start chattering!

We’re here to bust some myths, find out where your health collides with politics, laugh, and take some action. For our inaugural episode, we’ve got Brad Woodhouse in Washington, DC, who runs Protect Our Care, the organization fighting to defend the Affordable Care Act. And Brad’s magnificent Carolina accent. We’ve got that too.

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Ryan Sims
Coming soon!

We’ll be up with our inaugural episode real soon.

For now though, to get a taste of where we’ll meander on the podcast, here’s a recent piece that our host wrote and was featured on Medium. Jake discusses his Native heritage, Elizabeth Warren’s recent DNA test to ‘prove’ hers amid insults from the president, what it means to erase a culture, and his own struggle with identity.

My father (my full-blooded grandfather’s son) presents as nonwhite and has spent much of his life working in Indian country. I present as white, and I get to reap all the benefits of that status as I walk through the world.

This status does not excuse me from what I now consider to be my responsibility to represent my Native heritage. There was a period in my life, however, when I concealed an important piece of who I am because of resentful mockery akin to the kind invoked by Trump.

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Ryan Sims