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The Past And Present Of Public Health Heroes

“If you were born in 1900 you could expect to live on average just 32 years. Today, normal life expectancy is more than twice that. It’s one of the most remarkable achievements in human history,” says science writer and host Steven Johnson.

Johnson co-helms a new series from PBS based on his book “Extra Life: A Short History of Living Longer.” In print and on TV, Johnson marks these major public milestones, from the discoveries of vaccines and antibiotics to the introduction of things that are now commonplace, like pasteurized milk, chlorinated drinking water, and seatbelts.

He pays tribute to the unsung heroes behind each of these breakthroughs. From a muckraking journalist who exposed the corrupt milk industry in New York, to a brave FDA bureaucrat whose refusal to rubber-stamp a new drug application saved the lives of countless newborns.

Steven Johnson joins us to talk about the past, the drama of the present, and the challenges that lie ahead. Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes for Health, also joins.

Copyright 2021 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.