Best of 2020

December 1, 2020

Photo via Canva

We look back on some of the best health policy podcast episodes of the year with help from a few of our podcast host friends.

Listen to the full episode below, read the transcript or scroll down for more information.

If Tradeoffs has been one of your favorite podcasts this year, please consider donating to support our work. Through the end of 2020, your donation of up to $5,000 will be doubled thanks to the NewsMatch program from the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Our Favorite Health Policy Podcasts of 2020

As 2020 draws (mercifully) to a close, we asked some of our favorite health policy podcast hosts to tell us what episodes have stood out to them from a year like no other. (They weren’t allowed to recommend their own shows, but we certainly think you should check them out too.)

Dan Diamond, Host of POLITICO's Pulse Check

Dan’s Pick: A Former Coronavirus Task Force Member Speaks — What Next, Oct. 15

“I think [What Next] has done an excellent job when I have tuned into their COVID-19 episodes of tackling lots of issues that are important, interesting and relevant for a general audience and holding officials to account when they’re able to book them for their show. There was an episode in the middle of October with Olivia Troye. She was the recently departed official from the Trump administration who had been advising Mike Pence on the coronavirus response, and Olivia Troye, after leaving the administration, came out as a major critic of the Trump response. [Host] Mary Harris asked a question I’d been waiting for other reporters to ask Olivia: Why did Troye criticize President Trump so much but dance around the role of Mike Pence who is technically leading the coronavirus task force?”

Laura Carlson, Host of Prognosis

Laura’s Pick: Mink, mutation, and myocytes — This Week in Virology, Nov. 8

“If you think about Prognosis as a short burst of information, 10 to 15 minutes, my recommendation is the very long-form version of that, and that’s This Week in Virology or “TWiV” as the hosts love to refer to it as, which I think is amazing. We’re talking about episodes that range from 2 to 3 hours, and every single moment is from experts about anything related to COVID-19, and everything is just fantastic reporting and oftentimes quite whimsical as well. In the most recent episode I was listening to, they take a break in the middle of talking about testing for COVID-19 to talk about one of the guest’s fly fishing collection. I can’t recommend it enough. The hosts are great. The guests are great. If you want to know the science of the things that we hear in the news in terms of testing, vaccines — I guarantee you, there has been at least a segment or an episode dedicated to it on TWiV.”

Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, Host of Flip the Script

Max’s Pick: Black Voices in Healthcare: JoyThe Nocturnists, July 7

“The series came out in the summer in the middle of the pandemic and the uprisings related to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery’s killings. It came almost like a respite. I think it was 10 episodes, so every week, I got to hear the voices of my colleagues across the country who have similar experiences sharing them. My favorite episode was about joy, and different people are sharing what do you love about your experiences in terms of being Black in health care. One of the interviewees was talking about meeting a little Black girl who was so thrilled to see herself represented in the profession. It just made me happy to the point where I had tears rolling down by the time the episode was over.”

More recommendations from Max:

Alex Olgin, Host of Gist Healthcare Daily

Alex’s Pick: Where’s the Vaccine?Planet Money, March 6

“This was before the CARES Act was passed, before the government spent billions of dollars trying to develop a vaccine, and they talked with Rick Bright [the then Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority] about how there’s not really a market for emergency vaccines and drugs because a lot of times pandemics go pretty quickly, and so they don’t want to spend lots of money betting on a market that may not exist in several months or a year plus. And one thing I found really fascinating was they talked about how the government makes flu vaccines. They have something like 900,000 eggs, and the government has contracts with all these chicken farmers all over the country. And Rick Bright talks about it like it’s a top national security thing where these are undisclosed locations and government chickens and they’re having all these eggs reserved in case they need them on a short notice.”

More recommendations from Alex:

Julie Rovner, Host of What the Health?

Julie’s Pick: Tragedy Is Going to Happen – Chapter 3Where It Hurts, Oct. 13

“[The podcast] is about what happened to a small town in Kansas when their hospital closed. I think it really helped that [host Sarah Jane Tribble] is from that neck of the woods in eastern Kansas, her family still lives there. And I think it really helped her to be able to get some of the real raw stuff from a lot of these people because they knew that she was basically a neighbor. [In one episode], there was a couple and the husband slipped and fell on the ice and hit his head and had trouble getting emergency care. And it was a feat of storytelling and a feat of reporting. You hear about if your hospital closes and your nearest hospital is dozens or hundreds of miles away, it’s problem in an emergency, but she just really, really, really brought that home.”

More recommendations from Julie:

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Episode Resources

More Podcast Recommendations from the Tradeoffs Staff:

The Everlasting Problem — ThroughlineNPR

American RehabReveal

Amplify Nursing, Penn Nursing

Public Health on Call, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Social Distance, The Atlantic

An Arm and a LegKaiser Health News

Other “Best Of” Podcast Lists:

The 10 Best Podcasts of 2020 (Eliana Dockterman, TIME, 11/22/2020)

Best podcasts of 2020: 16 to binge right now (Daniel Van Boom and Nicole Archer, CNET, 11/29/2020)

The 83 Best Podcasts You Can Listen To In 2020 (Tom Nicholson, Esquire UK, 11/18/2020)

Episode Credits


Dan Diamond, Host of POLITICO’s Pulse Check, POLITICO

Laura Carlson, Host of PrognosisBloomberg

Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako, Host of Flip the Script, Yale School of Medicine

Alex Olgin, Host of Gist Healthcare Daily, Gist Healthcare

Julie Rovner, Host of What the Health, Kaiser Health News

The Tradeoffs theme song was composed by Ty Citerman, with additional music this episode by Checkie Brown, CC Mixter and Blue Dot Sessions.

This episode was produced and mixed by Andrew Parrella. It was produced for the web by Ryan Levi.

Additional thanks to:

Julie Stone, Tom Heinz, Kahaari Kenyatta, Andrew Kelly, the Tradeoffs Advisory Board and our stellar staff!