Rx for Survival: The Heroes (a preview)
On April 12 (check local listings), PBS will air a two-hour documentary called Rx for Survival: The Heroes, a companion to the six-part series, Rx for Survival: A Global Health Challenge. I mentioned the series back in November, and recently saw an advanced screening of Rx for Survival: The Heroes.
The special, narrated by Brad Pitt, takes an in-depth look at something many of us take for granted, which is the men and women who work to both maintain and eradicate diseases most of us never think about. The special not only focuses on major epidemics like HIV and tuberculosis, but on diseases not so well-known, such as "night blindness" in Southeast Asia, an ailment cured by an eye doctor in Baltimore who simply administered drops of Vitamin A to the children, a nutrient their regular diet lacked. This treatment, which was initially slammed by the medical community, also helped prevent other series diseases, resulting in a cut in child mortality rates by as much as one third. The special also focuses on a tenacious effort to once and for all eradicate polio from the Earth, just as small pox was destroyed in the early 80s.
The most fascinating aspect of the special, besides the medical professionals, scientists, and community volunteers from these areas who work to both treat diseases and spread awareness of them, is how Western science is often challenged by religious belief. In one scene, a man refuses to give his son a polio vaccine, claiming it is the will of Allah to decide what happens to his son. The man eventually accepts the medication for his son, but it illustrates there is more to fighting these diseases than just administering drugs. There is also the challenge of trying to get two very different cultures to see eye to eye on a very important issue that has the potential to affect us all.