Rx For Survival Rx For Survival Meet global health heroes who reveal their struggles, their triumphs and their turning points in saving lives and sustaining futures.

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At the dawn of the 21st century, the world is at a global health crossroads. Malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases virtually eliminated from the Western world routinely claim millions of lives in the developing world. More than 30 new or emergent diseases like SARS, West Nile virus and avian flu have appeared within the last 20 years. Strains of “superbugs” mystify modern medicine, while HIV/AIDS still has no vaccine.

Yet the problems of global health are not without solutions. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a “golden era” in world health spurred the greatest demographic revolution in human history. Powerful vaccines and antibiotics, clean water and sanitation, proper nutrition and a strong public health infrastructure protected whole populations from infectious disease and increased average life expectancy by more than 20 years, especially in developed countries. People simply stopped dying from diseases that had suddenly become curable. But the benefits of this golden era have not reached everyone. As a result, dangerous older diseases like tuberculosis and malaria continue to resurface and new threats emerge to challenge our best disease prevention tactics. In a jet-fast globalized world, communicable diseases can travel anywhere in a matter of hours, making any outbreak anywhere a threat to everyone.

Why are we so vulnerable to new infectious diseases? What will it take to get the fruits of medical science and disease prevention strategies to the world’s people as soon as possible? Rx for Survival—A Global Health Challenge™ shines a light on the most critical health threats in the world today and presents dramatic stories demonstrating that solutions are indeed possible, and lives can be saved right now.

Narrated by actor Brad Pitt, the six-part documentary series is co-produced by the award-winning documentary team of the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit and Vulcan Productions in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Intertwining historical vignettes with contemporary documentary sequences filmed in more than 20 countries, including the United States, Rx for Survival—A Global Health Challenge™ tells the remarkable stories of global health heroes, revealing their struggles, triumphs and turning points in saving lives and sustaining futures.

Rx for Survival—A Global Health Challenge™ travels to the frontlines of global health, following the stories of those who work to prevent disease and develop lasting solutions,” said Richard Hutton, vice president of media development at Vulcan Productions. “History shows us the path to global health success begins with understanding, commitment and compassion. Overcoming today's grave health challenges may seem daunting, but it's absolutely achievable, just as demystifying disease and enacting effective health services was accomplished in the past. Each small step in medicine brings us towards a more hopeful future. Knowing that is half the battle.”

The series is available for purchase at http://www.shoppbs.org

Rx for Survival—A Global Health Challenge™ was the cornerstone of an unprecedented multimedia event to focus the world's attention on global health. TIME Magazine, NPR and The Penguin Press joined PBS in producing in-depth coverage on the state of the world’s health. Coinciding with the Rx for Survival—A Global Health Challenge™broadcast, TIME convened a Global Health Summit in New York City, drawing together influential international leaders to address the global health situation and solutions to the most serious of these issues.

Beyond broadcast, the WGBH/NOVA Science Unit and Vulcan Productions produced a far-reaching campaign to deepen Americans’ awareness and engagement in global health and child survival. The campaign, called Rx for Child Survival, invites Americans to learn about the world’s health problems and offers ways to improve the health of children, one global health challenge about which everyone can make a positive and dramatic difference. In partnership with international humanitarian organizations including CARE, Save the Children and UNICEF, in conjunction with the Global Health Council and a number of professional, humanitarian and community organizations, Rx for Child Survival encourages donations to fund the delivery of life-saving health interventions for children in the developing world.

Major funding for Rx for Survival—A Global Health Challenge™ is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Merck Company Foundation.

  • Six-hour PBS TV series (a two-hour edited special entitled Rx for Survival—The Heroes aired on PBS on Apr. 12, 2006) and reached 12 million viewers.
  • NPR radio installments carried by more than 800 stations and reached more than 26.3 million listeners.
  • A Penguin Press companion book
  • A TIME Magazine special issue reached 29 million readers in more than 210 countries
  • The TIME Magazine Global Health Summit attracted 350 high-profile leaders in business, medicine, international aid, government, the arts, religious institutions and media.
  • Companion website at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/
  • Educational outreach material
  • Rx for Child Survival Social Impact Campaign, consisting of a public campaign and general influencer activities.

Rx for Child Survival promoted public participation in child survival solutions, such as speaking out, volunteering time and donating resources. It also empowered influencers to advance understanding and action around global health issues.

Public Activities: In the Community

  • Formed partnerships with CARE, Save the Children, UNICEF, Global Health Council, and 10 outreach partners.
  • Established 21 PBS station-led Community Coalitions to foster community engagement around the project and subject.
  • Mobilized faith-based groups to disseminate empowering messages and participate in “Month of Prayer” for child survival.
  • Recruited university students to support global health advocacy and outreach via campus and community-based activities.
  • Created “Global Yuppie Doer” e-mobilization campaign with Care2.com and BzzAgents word-of-mouth campaign.

Influencer Activities: In the Classroom, Newsroom, and On the Hill

  • Developed a 7th–12th grade online teacher guide, and a free global health undergraduate course with Johns Hopkins.
  • Presented project at WEF/Davos in 2005 and 2006.
  • Co-sponsored journalist conference with the National Press Foundation (NPF) in October 2005.
  • Conducted editorial meetings and seeded editorials.
  • Published a 200-page Newsroom Guide to Global Health.
  • Hosted major Capitol Hill screening attended by over 400 influencers.
  • A U.S. Senate resolution declared November 2005 the National Month of Global Health.


TIME Global Health Summit PR

Child Survival Campaign Video

See RX at PBS.org


  • Brad Pitt: Narrator
  • Paul G. Allen: Executives-in-Charge, Vulcan Productions
  • Jody Allen: Executives-in-Charge, Vulcan Productions
  • Paula S. Apsell: Executive-in-Charge, WGBH/NOVA Science Unit
  • Richard E. Hutton: Executive Producer, Vulcan Productions
  • Larry Klein: Series Executive Producer
  • Mike Beckham: Producer “Disease Warriors”
  • Sara Holt: Producer “Rise of the Superbugs”
  • Andy Young: Producer “Deadly Messengers”
  • Tabitha Jackson: Producer “Back to the Basics”
  • Rob Whittlesey: Producer “How Safe Are We?”
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