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The US Public Broadcasting System and Time Magazine take on global health

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 10 November 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1149
  1. Thomas E Novotny, professor in residence, epidemiology and biostatistics, and education coordinator (
  1. University of California at San Francisco Global Health Sciences, USA

    A week of events including the television series RX for Survival: A Global Health Challenge, broadcast on PBS from 1 to 3 November and available on VHS and DVD

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    With the discovery of penicillin in the 1940s, scientists were confident that “humanity had finally won” in the war with microbes. Infectious diseases that had devastated the globe for centuries were in abeyance by the 1970s, and most people in developed countries did not fear the old scourges of smallpox, cholera, plague, malaria, and tuberculosis.

    Since then, however, the world has been shocked by the rise of new plagues such as HIV/AIDS and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), haemorrhagic fevers arising from Ebola and Marburg viruses, and the threat of avian influenza. But many old plagues still devastate developing countries, destabilising the global community and unnecessarily killing millions. In response, rock stars, developmental economists, billionaire entrepreneurs, and even occasional governments now recognise the need for commitment to global health.

    Last week the US Public Broadcasting System (PBS) put out a six-part series entitled Rx for Survival, dedicated to explaining the historical successes and new challenges in infectious disease control. Time Magazine simultaneously staged a global health summit in New …

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