Extra Life: A Short History of Living Long

May 6, 2021

Tuesdays, May 11 - June 1 at 8pm on WKAR-HD 23.1 & STREAMING | Discover the little-known story of the innovations in science and medicine that doubled the human lifespan in less than a century, andcelebrate the unsung heroes of public health who believed change was possible and acted on it.

Set in the context of today’s COVID-19 crisis, this series explores the lessons learned from previous global pandemics—including smallpox, cholera, the Spanish flu and others—and reveals how scientists, doctors, self-experimenters and activists launched a public health revolution, saving millions of lives, fundamentally changing how we think about illness and ultimately paving the way for modern medicine.

Each episode will explore one aspect of public health that has played a central role in the battle to live longer.

Episode One
“Vaccines” explores the history and use of vaccination, from early practices in Africa introduced to America during the slave trade and Thomas Jefferson's clinical trials, to the first anti-vax protests in the 19th century and COVID-19 today.

Episode Two
“Medical Drugs” focuses on the more recent medical inventions that combat illness directly, particularly antibiotics, and the development of antiviral drugs for HIV. Knowledge of how to produce safe, effective drugs and distribute them quickly around the globe now underpins work to find treatments for COVID-19.

Episode Three
“Data” looks at how the emergence of fact-based research, data mapping and analysis has improved public health. The practice evolved out of the 19th century science of epidemiology and cholera mortality reports in the 1840s, where the now ubiquitous “curve” of an epidemic was first documented.

Episode Four
“Behavior” examines the importance of public engagement during a health crisis, from the discovery that the simple act of handwashing could save lives in a 19th century Viennese maternity hospital, to facemasks and lockdowns used to combat the Spanish flu 100 years ago, along with what we are experiencing today.