The Coming of Age of Global Health Podcasts
Newsletter Edition #182 [Special Edition]
Today we bring you a story on podcasts in global health and their role in furthering discourse.
This flows from a recent event that I had participated in sharing and learning from other communicators in global health. We hope you like the story filed by my young colleague, Parth Chandna who is an expert in podcasts himself.
I have personally enjoyed advising the Global Health Matters podcast in an editorial capacity in the recent past. It has contributed to not only my understanding on global health, but also the audio medium.
We will soon be sharing a new podcast episode from us on current global health negotiations!
Also, this week: our upcoming workshop on Global Health Negotiations at WHO [April 28, 2023], this will collectively look at INB and IHR discussions so far. Sign up here?
Finally, watch out for our exclusive edition in the coming days.
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The Coming of Age of Global Health Podcasts
By Parth Chandna
In trying to understand the landscape of global health podcasts, a quick Google search on the topic revealed more than two dozen podcasts focused exclusively on public health issues ranging from geeky science topics, to politics and even geopolitics. A part of this growing interest in global health podcasts could perhaps be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic that has captured our immediate and future concerns like no other recent crises. But this interest is also a testimony to the medium of audio communication and how it lends itself fluidly even to niche and technical communities such as global health.
In general, podcasts have become increasingly popular in recent years, providing a convenient and accessible way for people to consume information and entertainment on-the-go.
Global health podcasts fulfill a spectrum of needs from providing news updates on current global health events, such as disease outbreaks, new treatments, and public health initiatives to breaking down complex information in an engaging way to increase the awareness of listeners.
A recent event on Twitter Spaces called “Podcasts for sparking conversations on global health”, delved into the specificities of global health podcasts. The conversation was hosted on Twitter, and organized by the Global Health Matters podcast, one of the most defining podcasts in the field. The discussion drew on experiences of communicators, podcasters and global health professionals. In this story we try to pick up apart key messages from this discussion.
THE GLOBAL HEALTH MATTERS PODCAST
In a relatively short time, the Global Health Matters podcast has become a leading voice among listeners in the global health community. For one, it appears to have broken down the silos in the way global health is talked about, beyond the narrow confines of vertical diseases, but also looking at broader conversations in the community from decolonization to diversity, among a range of other topics.
Funded and hosted by TDR, the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, the podcast has listeners in more than 197 countries and territories with thousands of downloads of its episodes.
Co-sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), TDR is a global programme of scientific collaboration that helps facilitate, support and influence efforts to combat diseases of poverty.
Garry Aslanyan who leads Partnerships and Governance at TDR, is the host of the Global Health Matters podcast. We spoke with Aslanyan to understand how this podcast series came about.
“We started Global Health Matters because we found that at that time there weren’t any that were focused on global health. What was on offer was very academic, pertaining to research, evidence and findings. It was simply audio content and not really in podcast style. And we wanted to do something different,” Aslanyan said. The idea began in August 2020 and the first episode was ready by January 2021.
“In global health, everyone has their own language and they do not talk to each other. So I felt a podcast would be a way to connect audiences. Of course, being located at TDR, we have our biases in the sense that we are more research focused. But in general, there is no real indication that this is a TDR project, since our episodes cover major global health topics of interest and debate in the community. And of course, the podcast is also trusted because of our credibility,” Aslanyan told us.
For every episode, the team reaches out to the organizations, and people, associations, groups, institutions, agencies, who are connected to that specific episode. “Nearly 200 people receive communication from us purposefully, because they work in this particular area,” Aslanyan explains. A new season for Global Health Matters begins next month.
PODCASTS AS EDUCATIONAL CONTENT
Global health podcasts have provided a way for people to learn about the latest developments and research in the field of health and medicine around the world, including being accessible to those who live in areas where access to healthcare and health information is limited. By listening to global health podcasts, people can stay informed about the latest breakthroughs and advances in medical research, as well as learn about public health initiatives and interventions that are being implemented in different parts of the world.
Podcasts are also increasingly occupying a space in the academic context. This illustrates the ability of this medium to cater to the needs of a diverse audience.
During the discussion on Twitter, Aslanyan said, “We know through our experience that podcasts or our episodes are sometimes used as educational material or ways to introduce a topic or area or a complex issue that different learners or academic institutions use.”
By listening to these podcasts, individuals can stay informed about important developments in the field. Such listening modes can play a crucial role in developing critical thinking skills by presenting different perspectives on complex issues. Accessing different viewpoints and analyzing the evidence presented, individuals can learn to think critically and make informed decisions about their own health and the health of others.
WHAT MAKES A PODCAST SUCCESSFUL?
Beyond informing listeners about research and global health in general, there is a fair amount of technique and deliberation on crafting a good podcast.
Mark Goldberg, host of Global Dispatches podcast shared his thoughts on appealing to a diverse audience, “Any podcast that is to be effective in leading global health discourse must in itself also be a good podcast to listen to. So as hosts of podcasts, a lot of work has to be put into dissecting sometimes very complicated and complex topics and making them accessible for the everyday listener, not just people who are already engaged in global discourse.” Goldberg was one of the speakers at the Twitter Spaces event.
Explaining the goals for his podcast, Goldberg added, “what I seek to do with these in-depth interviews that, again, are not narrow tasks that they are intended to bring what is unique and important about that niche sub-field of neglected tropical diseases and bring it to a level that the broader foreign policy, international affairs community would find valuable and insightful.”
Global health podcasts offer a platform for experts and advocates to share their knowledge and experiences with a global audience. This can help to promote greater understanding and collaboration among healthcare professionals and policymakers from different parts of the world.
Leshawn Benedict, co-host of Public Health Insight podcast, alongside his colleague Gordon Thane, speakers at the event, shared their approach to building a more inclusive relationship with the audience, “If there's a specific topic that the audience wants, we talk to them and we try to understand what specific aspects of a topic you are interested in. And through those conversations, you develop other avenues of communication tools.”
PODCASTS AS A TOOL FOR ADVOCACY AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Particularly in a field as diverse and complex as global health, listeners can gain a broader perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing global health, by hearing from experts and advocates directly about working in different areas of health and medicine.
Practitioners believe that global health podcasts can be a powerful tool for advocacy and social change. By highlighting the experiences of individuals and communities impacted by health disparities and inequalities, podcasts can help to raise awareness about these issues and mobilize support for policies and programs that address them.
Moreover, global health podcasts often explore health issues in different parts of the world, providing listeners with an opportunity to learn about different cultures and health practices. This can help individuals develop a greater appreciation for cultural diversity and sensitivity when working with patients or colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
Emmanuella Amoako, co-host of Global Health Unfiltered podcast says, “Given that people are being exposed to new media, the podcast actually gives you the opportunity to reach out to people that are interested in global health. People that would want to listen, would sometimes not have their voices heard on global platforms. They are able to talk about what they think and explain what actually happens in the Global South.”
In addition, podcasts can serve as a platform for activists and advocates to share their stories and amplify their voices, bringing attention to issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.
THE AUDIO MEDIUM FOR GLOBAL HEALTH
Global health podcasts provide essential information on significant global health issues by covering a wide range of topics related to health, including infectious diseases, mental health, nutrition, and healthcare systems.
Many also feature interviews with experts in the field, including researchers, healthcare professionals, and policymakers - providing listeners with valuable insights and perspectives on complex global health issues.
And finally text cannot compete with voice.
Priti Patnaik, founding editor of Geneva Health Files says, “What I have heard from listeners and readers of the newsletter is that people sometimes don't have time to read 3000 words of long-form legal analysis on a weekly basis, but they quickly want to see what happened in the last three months of a really complex negotiation. And podcasting makes this kind of complex information very digestible. So, I do think from my personal experience, it's a great way to connect readers, and especially for those of us who inhabit different mediums. This kind of cross-fertilization between audiences and communities is natural. It is self-fulfilling in some sense. And finally, I do think that audio has to establish a connection in a way that text simply cannot.”
Goldberg emphasized the connection that voice makes with listeners, “What distinguishes podcasting is that you create a depth of connection with your audience that is so much more profound than any other medium that I have experienced in my 20 years as a journalist covering international affairs. There is something I think just intimate about listening to someone speak to you directly into your head or wearing earphones. You develop just a connection with that person, with that host, and you feel like you get to know them, and you are inspired to take action based on their recommendation.”
Finally, podcasts are for posterity, for their capture the time in which these stories unravel.
Leshawn from Public Health Insight said, “When you put out a podcast, you don't know what the reach will be like, but it will be there forever. And people can continually access that piece of knowledge that you shared, which is a huge positive.”
POPULAR GLOBAL HEALTH PODCASTS
Here are a few of the most popular global health podcasts that are worth checking out:
§ The Lancet Global Health Podcast: Produced by the editors of The Lancet Global Health, this podcast features interviews with leading experts in global health, as well as discussions of the latest research and policy developments in the field. Episodes cover a wide range of topics, from the impact of climate change on global health to the challenges of delivering healthcare in conflict zones.
§ Global Health Matters Podcast: offers a platform for in-depth conversations on the pressing global health issues of our time. Hosted by Dr Garry Aslanyan, the podcast encourages thought-provoking discussions exploring a range of topics, from access to medicines to science diplomacy, and the future of public health programmes in a post-pandemic world. Episodes bring together respected experts and emerging voices, with a particular emphasis on voices from low- and middle-income countries.
§ Another podcast, This Week in Global Health, produced by the Global Health Hub, provides a weekly roundup of news and analysis related to global health. Episodes cover a wide range of topics, from the latest research on vaccine development to the challenges of achieving universal health coverage.
§ In addition, the Health Affairs podcast, produced by the health policy journal of the same name, features interviews with health policy experts and researchers, as well as discussions of the latest research and policy developments in healthcare. Although not exclusively focused on global health, many episodes cover global health topics and issues.
§ Suno India is a unique and dynamic multilingual podcast platform dedicated to audio stories on issues that matter. As an editorially independent organization, it shines a spotlight on under-represented and under-reported stories through audio. With a focus on issues that are often sidelined or ignored, their team of diverse and experienced storytellers deliver the right mix of human-interest stories and hard facts, aimed at informing and challenging listeners while leaving the decision-making to them.
Parth Chandna is a media and communications student with a keen interest in global health news and developments.
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