TV Review: Rx for Survival

For the past few days US network PBS aired special programming dealing with the current global health crisis. Narrated by actor Brad Pitt, Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge delves into infectious diseases that had nearly been conquered, such as tuberculosis, have come surging back, while devastating new diseases such as AIDS, SARS and West Nile Virus have emerged. Microbial resistance to many modern drugs is rising, threatening people everywhere. And in our world of globalized travel, as the program states, the latest epidemic is only a plane ride away.

It is shocking that millions of people around the world are dying from diseases that are easily preventable, and how those in the West take for granted their access to health care. It is sad to see children in Bangladesh suffering from Night Blindness, which is caused by lack of Vitamin A in the diet. It is also mind-blowing to watch watch a whole village in West Africa suffer from "river blindness." This is not caused by vitamin defiencency, but rather a bug that bits the skin. Planes and helicopters flying over the area can easily identify this village because all the residents are either walking slowly or being escorted.

Obesity in America was also addressed in the program. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death among all Americans, but especially with African Americans. One African American family was featured in the program. The family patriach, an overweight man who suffered one heart attack, is a pastor of a church in his native Arkansas. When he is not doing this, he is a funeral director. He displayed special coffins for overweight deceased people, which he has made a lucrative business out of. He says that if you want to have any of these $4,000 coffins, "You better have good insurance," he says.

The biggest question is how devastating with the Bird-Flu be? Despite all the technology we have today, having a major death toll is not out of the question. If poverty was eliminated, many epidemics could be minimal. The show is a mirror of the world's health, which should be taken seriously.


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