Taking The Temperature Of Global Health

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PBS Announces Major Six-Hour Television Series On Global Health Co-Produced By WGBH's NOVA Science Unit And Vulcan Productions Premieres Fall 2005 On PBS Stations

Los Angeles, CA; July 8, 2004 - An ambitious new PBS project called GLOBAL HEALTH (w.t.) will address the world's growing health crisis and the realistic steps that individuals and nations can take to create positive change, announced PBS and WGBH today at the PBS/TCA Press Tour in Los Angeles. An award-winning documentary team from WGBH's NOVA Science Unit, in co-production with Vulcan Productions, is producing this groundbreaking and timely multi-media project, which explores not only today's global health crisis, but also new and better solutions in our boundary free-world. Anchored by a compelling six-hour PBS television series airing nationwide on PBS stations in the Fall of 2005, the project will be extended by a wealth of companion elements including an editorial partnership with TIME magazine, which will produce a special edition on global health as well as an international symposium, and National Public Radio (NPR), which will produce a series of featured stories on global health. Additionally, there will be a major companion book from Penguin Press; a content rich Web site on pbs.org; educational materials for high-school students; and an impact campaign designed to engage Americans to participate in several initiatives that will improve the health of people in the developing world.

"Spearheaded by an exceptionally talented team at WGBH Boston and Vulcan Productions, GLOBAL HEALTH is a great example of what differentiates PBS from the commercial networks," said Jacoba Atlas, senior vice president, PBS programming. "PBS is the only place where individuals can turn for this level of depth, quality and community and educational resources, which is what our mission is all about."
During the years of the twentieth century, the world witnessed a "golden era" in public health. The benefits of penicillin and new life-saving drugs, of more and better vaccines, and of clean water and sanitation dramatically raised life expectancy and finally forced the retreat of many deadly diseases that had plagued humanity for ages.

In recent decades, however, this stunning progress has declined dramatically. Although life expectancy remains high in developed nations, in many countries of the developing world it has actually fallen - primarily as a result of AIDS, but also due to the failure to bring enough life-saving interventions to the world's neediest people. The march to better world health has also been slowed by the emergence of new and devastating diseases such as SARS and West Nile virus, microbial resistance to many modern drugs - especially those that once cured old killers like tuberculosis and malaria - and a global travel network that can carry any local disease around the world in a matter of hours. Today, diseases that Americans never heard of a few years ago are prevalent in the news, creating an awakened consciousness about our interconnected world.

GLOBAL HEALTH executive producer Larry Klein explains, "Our hope is for people to understand that it is possible to regain the high road in the struggle against infectious disease, and that all the world's people can share in the benefits of good health. The world is smaller than ever before, and serious infectious diseases are only a plane ride away. For this reason, and for reasons of basic fairness and a commitment to all humanity, we have a shared destiny to make global health a serious international priority."

All six programs in the series will contain recreated historical stories as well as documentary sequences featuring the most explosive issues in global health today. The dramatizations of stories from the past will help illuminate the challenges of the present. While the historic stories will feature actors and sets, the documentary sequences will be filmed throughout the world and will capture the real life drama of today's struggle to overcome poor health and rampant disease. Current plans for the series include sequences in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Pacific Rim, the West Indies, the Indian sub-continent, Europe and the United States.

The GLOBAL HEALTH project's impact campaign will launch several months before the series airs and continue beyond the premiere. The goal is to help transform the landscape of public opinion and catalyze a larger, long-term effort that will create a legacy of participation and positive action around issues of global health. The impact campaign will focus on supplying at least five critical elements to children by the age of five aimed to reduce childhood deaths in the developing world.

Richard Hutton, executive producer and vice president of media development at Vulcan Productions says, "All we need to do is read the latest newspaper headline to recognize that there is an urgent need to educate and motivate Americans about global health problems and solutions. As intractable and widespread as the crisis may seem, we have the knowledge and the tools to bring improved health and longevity to millions around the globe. But, fundamentally, do we have the will? Vulcan Productions is committed to a long-term effort to take positive action around issues of global health."

PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation's 349 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (pbskids.org), continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

GLOBAL HEALTH is a presentation of WGBH's NOVA Science Unit and Vulcan Productions, with major support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Headed by Paula S. Apsell, WGBH's NOVA Science Unit has won every major broadcasting award. NOVA, now in its 31st season, is one of the most watched series on PBS and is seen in more than 100 countries. NOVA's programs are used extensively in classrooms around the country and the NOVA website is consistently the most trafficked on PBS.

WGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer, the source of one-third of PBS' prime-time lineup as well as many public radio favorites. WGBH-produced Web sites generate 25% of the traffic to pbs.org, the most-visited dot-org on the Internet. WGBH is a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who rely on captioning or video descriptions. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards, even two Oscars. In 2002, WGBH was honored with a special institutional Peabody Award for 50 years of excellence. For more information visit www.wgbh.org.

Founded in 1997 by investor and philanthropist Paul G. Allen, Seattle-based Vulcan Productions devotes itself exclusively to producing independent films of unique vision and artistic quality. With projects such as Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven, The Safety of Objects by Rose Troche, Martin Scorsese's The Blues, and Me & Isaac Newton by Michael Apted, the company commits its talent and resources to creating films of substance and enduring significance - e ngaging audiences both intellectually and emotionally with storytelling that illuminates the human condition. Other Vulcan Productions films include the acclaimed PBS Evolution series, a co-production with WGBH's NOVA Science Unit that debuted in 2001, Coastlines by Victor Nunez, Julie Taymor's directorial debut Titus and Men with Guns, by John Sayles.


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Anne Zeiser,
Tel.: 617/300-5333 / Anne_Zeiser@wgbh.org

Nanda Chitre,
Tel.: 617/300-5325 / Nanda_chitre@wgbh.org

Jason Hunke,
Tel.: 206/342-2534 / JasonH@vulcan.com