The Princeton Pulse Podcast

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The Princeton Pulse Podcast highlights the vital connections between health research and policy. Hosted by Heather Howard, professor at Princeton University and former New Jersey Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, the show brings together scholars, policymakers, and other leaders to examine today’s most pressing health policy issues – domestically and globally. Guests discuss novel research at Princeton along with partnerships aimed at improving public health and reducing health disparities.

We hope you’ll listen in, as we put our fingers on the pulse, and examine the power and possibilities of evidence-informed health policy.


Heather Howard

Heather Howard is a professor at Princeton University, where she also serves as co-director of the Global Health Program at the Center for Health and Wellbeing and director of State Health and Value Strategies, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded program focused on assisting states with transforming their health care systems to be affordable, equitable, and innovative. Howard previously served as New Jersey's Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and as Governor Jon Corzine's Chief Policy Counsel. At the federal level, she worked as Senator Corzine's Chief of Staff, as Associate Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council and Senior Policy Advisor for First Lady Hillary Clinton, as an Honors Attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division Health Care Task Force, and for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Episode 1: Closing the Racial Divide in Maternal-Infant Health

In the inaugural episode, New Jersey's First Lady Tammy Murphy discusses how the Garden State is tackling maternal and infant health disparities through policy and Nurture New Jersey, a collaborative endeavor aimed at making New Jersey the safest, most equitable place in the nation to deliver and raise a baby. She is joined by Princeton Professor Elizabeth Armstrong, who explores how racism drives these inequities and leads to adverse outcomes.

Episode 2: Can Sugary Beverage Taxes Improve Public Health?

This episode explores the effectiveness of levies on sugar-sweetened beverages, comparing experiences from South Africa and Philadelphia. Sometimes called “soda taxes” or “sugar taxes,” they are used as a policy tool to address rising rates of obesity and other non-communicable diseases, and the related social and economic costs. Host Heather Howard is joined by Dr. Karen Hofman, a pediatrician and research professor who helped South Africa become the first Sub-Saharan African country to implement this kind of tax; and Dwayne Wharton, a health equity advocate behind Philadelphia’s beverage tax.

Episode 3: Measuring "The Good Life " -- Alternative Metrics for National Wellbeing

This episode is about measuring “The Good Life.” Gross domestic product, or GDP, has been the longstanding indicator for evaluating a country’s performance and prosperity. But there is a growing movement to look beyond GDP, which only accounts for goods and services. Economists and other stakeholders argue the need for a better metric – one that considers health, access to education, happiness, and other dimensions of human welfare to provide a more complete picture. Host Heather Howard discusses the issue with two guests: Professor Ori Heffetz, a Princeton alum and visiting research scholar from Cornell and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Yanchun Zhang, chief statistician at the United Nations Development Programme and proponent of the Human Development Index, an alternative approach to assessing human welfare and rating a country’s wellbeing.

Episode 4: Can We Tackle Vaccine Hesitancy and Climate Change With a Similar Playbook? Researchers Think So.

This episode takes on vaccine hesitancy and climate change. Although they are distinct public health challenges, researchers propose a common solution. Host Heather Howard explores the issue with Princeton Professor Simon Levin, who conducted a study on this topic, and Nicholas Silitch, former chief risk officer for Prudential Financial, who speaks to the role of corporations in addressing these issues. 

Episode 5: Why Millions of Americans May Lose Their Health Insurance

This episode spotlights health insurance in the U.S. – and why an estimated 15 million Medicaid enrollees are at risk of losing their health insurance coverage and access to care. Host Heather Howard discusses “the Medicaid unwinding,” and the implications of this unprecedented health insurance transition, with Kate McEvoy, Executive Director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, and Dr. Kemi Alli, a pediatrician and Chief Executive Officer of Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton, NJ.

Episode 6: Which Country Will Be the First to Wipe Out Cervical Cancer? (The Answer May Surprise You.)

This episode highlights a potential win in the fight against cervical cancer – one that comes from a place that you might not expect. Rwanda, a low-income country, could become the first country in the world to eradicate the disease. Host Heather Howard explores this success with Professor Cristina Stefan, director of the Institute of Global Health Equity Research in Rwanda, and Princeton Lecturer Alyssa Sharkey, whose research interests include global health equity and immunization.

Episode 7: A Public Health Approach to Gun Violence in America

This episode tackles gun violence in America, a serious and escalating public health crisis. Host Heather Howard examines challenges and potential policy solutions with two staunch advocates for depoliticizing gun safety and uniting for the common good: Senator William H. Frist, M.D., a practicing physician and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader, whose ongoing work proposes a shift in culture and targeted, bipartisan legislation; and Chethan Sathya, M.D., a pediatric trauma surgeon and director of the Northwell Health Center for Gun Violence Prevention.

Episode 8: Who’s Caring for the Caregiver? Strategies for Reducing Clinician Burnout

This episode examines clinician burnout, a public health issue that affects up to 54 percent of nurses, physicians, and other clinicians. Host Heather Howard explores the drivers of clinician burnout along with the rising costs with Dr. Bryant Adibe, Sugarman Practitioner in Residence at Princeton's School of Public and International Affairs, and Dr. Wayne Jonas, a practicing family physician and president of the Healing Works Foundation.

Episode 9: Lessons from America’s Former Top Doctor – from Covid to the Opioid Crisis

This episode of the Princeton Pulse Podcast takes us to the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic and other public health crises with Dr. Jerome Adams, former Surgeon General of the United States and current Executive Director of Health Equity Initiatives and Distinguished Professor of Practice at Purdue University. He and host Heather Howard discuss the importance of depoliticizing public health, improving science and health literacy, preventing misinformation, and preparing for the next public health crisis.

Episode 10: Only in America: Easing the Burden of Medical Debt

This episode takes on medical debt, a pervasive and uniquely American problem. Host Heather Howard delves into the latest research, the underlying drivers of medical debt, and its compelling consequences with Noam Levey, a senior correspondent for KFF Health News, and Eva Stahl, Vice President of Public Policy at RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities by abolishing medical debt.

Episode 11: The Global Fight Against Antimicrobial Resistance

This episode of the Princeton Pulse Podcast takes on one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity: antimicrobial resistance, often called AMR. Host Heather Howard discusses this global health challenge with Ramanan Laxminarayan, a Princeton lecturer and founder and president of One Health Trust, and Dr. Martin Blaser, a professor at Rutgers University, where he directs the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine.

Episode 12: Digging Into the Debate About Banning Menthol Cigarettes

On this episode of the Princeton Pulse Podcast, we dig into the ongoing debate about banning menthol cigarettes in the United States. Host Heather Howard delves into the historical context and the costs of delayed policy intervention with Keith Wailoo, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton and author of the book "Pushing Cool: Big Tobacco, Racial Marketing, and the Untold Story of the Menthol Cigarette," and Carol McGruder, founding member and co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council.

Episode 13: The State of Public Health with Dr. Ashish Jha

This episode features a candid conversation with Dr. Ashish Jha, a globally renowned public health leader and Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. An accomplished physician and researcher, Dr. Jha is acclaimed for driving improvements in public health policy and practice. Most notably, his groundbreaking work on pandemic preparedness and response led to a role at the White House, where he served as Covid-19 Response Coordinator under President Joe Biden. 

A production of Princeton University's Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW), the show is produced by Aimee Bronfeld, with support from Alex Brownstein. We invite you to subscribe to The Princeton Pulse Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you enjoy your favorite podcasts.