The Wooden Teeth Show

By Jake Williams

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Government, elections, historical myths, webs of influence – they’re all affecting your health more than you think.

Episode Date
Gaslit by the Gas Industry

Jake speaks with Sabrina Pacha of Healthy Air and Water Colorado, where they discuss the health effects of using gas in homes and how the gas industry is pushing back against converting homes to electric, including by using Instagram influencers. Then Jake speaks with Vijay Limaye, an epidemiologist with NRDC, about how we quantify and communicate the health impact of climate change and what we can do to turn the tide.

Mar 08, 2021
Jack Healy of the New York Times on COVID-19 impact on Native Americans

Native American communities are being devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the toll isn’t just on health, but also on culture, as language, customs and oral history is perishing along with Native elders. Jake speaks with New York Times journalist Jack Healy about his reporting on this impact and what Natives are doing to counteract it.

Jan 25, 2021
Public Health & Politics with Dr. Abdul El-Sayed

Jake speaks with Dr. Abdul El-Sayed about how Abdul's public health training informs his political instincts, the status of the public health workforce, and his insights on why President Trump won in 2016, but lost in 2020. They also dabble in actors with Egyptian roots, Ann Arbor deli talk, and a little sports. Abdul is a CNN political contributor, podcaster, and author. He was formerly the Executive Director of the Detroit Health Department and also ran for Governor of Michigan.

Dec 22, 2020
On the Wildfire Frontline with Dan Gibbs

Jake speaks with Dan Gibbs, who is a wildland firefighter and Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Dan was deployed this year to fight what were the largest forest fires in the state's history, which was part of a swell of fires this year out West that consumed an area larger than the state of Maryland. Dan offers both a ground-level and a policy perspective on how to fight wildfires, sets the record straight on Trump's "forest raking," and takes a position on whether wildland firefighters should have their own calendar.

Nov 12, 2020
Rebuilding in the Wake of the Pandemic with Dr. Ashwin Vasan

Jake speaks with Dr. Ashwin Vasan, a physician and epidemiologist who is also the President & CEO of Fountain House, an organization with international reach that supports people with mental illness. In the conversation, Jake mines Dr. Vasan’s public health expertise in exploring our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including what steps Vice President Joe Biden should take to advance public health should he become President, and how we should communicate about and build confidence in the adoption of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Aug 25, 2020
A Breath of Fresh Cyanide

While our air quality overall has improved in the last 50 years, air pollution today still causes about 100,000 premature deaths annually in America. It costs us all about $886 billion per year. The air emissions from our fossil fuel economy not only accelerates climate change, but also poses a health risk right now in communities across the U.S. as harmful substances, like Benzene, are still emitted.

Jake speaks with Chase Woodruff, a journalist who writes for Westword, about his reporting on an oil refinery in Metro Denver that has been cited for over 100 violations since 2018 by state regulators, including spewing an excess amount of hydrogen cyanide in the surrounding community.

Jake also speaks with Dr. Cory Carroll, a physician who describes how harmful air emissions and elevated ozone levels affect our health. He also shares some perspective on treating patients in a community that has seen a steep rise in nearby oil and gas extraction.

Mar 10, 2020
The Future of Big Tobacco is ... Japanese?!

Altria recently introduced "Heat not burn" tobacco products in Atlanta, their first U.S. test market. This is the latest ploy big tobacco is using to hook people on nicotine. It’s so new it makes vaping seem like a thing of the past. These products come to the U.S. all the way from Japan, where they've become very popular.

In this episode, you’ll hear an interview conducted in Tokyo, where Dr. Reiko Saito of Jumonji University talks about the history of tobacco control activism in Japan, new smoking regulations passed in advance of the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, and how these “Heat not Burn” products came to prominence in Japan. PLUS, Don Draper makes a guest appearance!

Jan 31, 2020
Coming out, interrupted.
Justin took the stage at a recent rural philanthropy event and, for the first time in his life, publicly shared his story about coming out as a gay man. However, his microphone got cut off.  In this episode, we talk with him about what happened that day, as well as his personal experience with so-called "gay conversion therapy." We also speak about his work at the University of New Mexico's Center for Participatory Research, where he engages in research to support the health of LGBTQ high school students.
Dec 16, 2019
A conversation with Liz Plank about idealized masculinity
In this episode, Jake speaks with award-winning Vox journalist Liz Plank about her new book, "For the Love of Men: A New Vision for Mindful Masculinity." We explore the negative health impact of toxic masculinity or, as Liz calls it, "idealized masculinity", and its role in fueling gun violence, domestic abuse, suicide and more. And finally, we discuss societal solutions to address these public health problems, including a more empathetic approach to masculinity, which empowers men to be who they truly want to be.
Nov 18, 2019
What it means to be "healthy": some thoughts from the SXSW Wellness Expo
This week, we’re taking a look back at one of our favorite episodes from the season: our trip to SXSW’s Wellness Expo, where we interviewed visitors and vendors about their thoughts on what it means to be “healthy”. Now, a few months after our initial trip, the Wooden Teeth staff takes time to reflect on the conversations we had at SXSW, and talk about what the different booths at the event have to say about how our culture thinks about health.
Jun 12, 2019
Need some summer reading ideas? We got you covered.
In this episode, we are looking back at some of our favorite interviews from this season about books—books that inspire, that force us to reevaluate our preconceived notions, and that illuminate something within ourselves. We’ll show you some highlights from our conversations with three different authors about their work: Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat; author of Decolonizing Wealth, Edgar Villanueva; and finally, Leslie Crutchfield, author of How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed and Others Don’t. Our Wooden Teeth staff also joins the podcast to give some of their top book recommendations for this summer. If you are looking for something to read for a coming vacation in these warmer weeks, we promise you will leave this episode with a laundry list of books to stack on your nightstand and expand your mind.
May 29, 2019
How does economic inequality influence mental health?

In this episode, Jake speaks with Richard Wilkinson, co-author, along with Kate Pickett, of a new book titled "The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone's Well-Being". This book examines how economic policy influences a myriad of health issues—such as the fact, for instance, that mental illness is three times as common in the United States as it is Germany. In the conversation, we dive into both the reasons why economic inequality manifests in these negative health outcomes, as well as how policy solutions can fix the problem.

May 16, 2019
The re-birth of the public option

A public health insurance failed to make it into the Affordable Care Act, but now states are creating their own version of the public option. Colorado has adopted legislation that initiates the implementation of a public health insurance option for residents, and we get the inside story of the bill and how it passed from Susanna Mizer, Healthier Colorado's Senior Director of Public Affairs. To put this policy development in context, we also present a cheeky 10 minute, 4 act play on the history of the public option in America. Enjoy!

May 09, 2019
All About the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary

On today’s episode, we speak with political consultants Jayson Sime and Kate Duch of One Minus Beta about the process and politics of the 2020 process to produce a Democratic nominee for President. How are the rules different this year? How will a large field of candidates change the race? Which lesser-known candidate has a chance to breakthrough? Those are all questions we tackle. We also talk about Jayson's Syme role as a health coach, trainer, and speaker through his project called Right to Shine.

May 01, 2019
When we elect women, what happens to our health?
This week, our host Jake Williams chatted with Edwin Ng of the University of Waterloo and Carles Muntaner of the University of Toronto. They examined the effect of female representation in government on population health. Turns out, female representation and feminism generally are good for your health. And we couldn’t have a podcast about women with only men so two ladies of the Wooden Teeth team joined to give their take on the episode. So join us as we discuss feminism and public health.
Apr 24, 2019
Why are some cities better at keeping people alive?
A low-income resident of New York City or San Jose, CA lives about 5 years longer on average than a low-income resident of Detroit or Indianapolis. The evidence suggests that this is due, at least in part, to the difference in social, economic and public health resources offered to residents via public policy. Today on the podcast we have the president of CityHealth, Shelley Hearne. CityHealth, an initiative of the deBeaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, advances evidence-based public health policy solutions that help people live longer, better lives in cities across America, and then ranks cities on their adoption of these policies with a gold/silver/bronze medal system.
Apr 17, 2019
Why does CrossFit have a political agenda?
This week: We learn that there’s an exercise Jake can’t do, find out why a gym company has a government affairs director, and learn about “unholy alliances” of less-than-savory businesses and government health agencies. We’re joined by Russ Greene, who heads up government relations for CrossFit, which now has more than 15,000 affiliate gyms around the country and we find out what it means to be a fitness company with its own political ideology. Disclosure: Jake <3s CrossFit.
Apr 11, 2019
Politicians can choose their own voters. Is that a threat to democracy?
Every 10 years, based on the data provided by the U.S. Census, states redraw the country's congressional and state legislative districts. It’s an intense and often contentious political process that shapes representation for the decade to follow. The rules about how redistricting works, specifically about whether districts can be drawn to expressly favor one party over another, are being considered right now by the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome of that case could have profound impact upon the health of our democracy. We talk it over with Michael Li, Senior Counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law. He is a leading national expert in the redistricting process and, as you might guess, has lots of thoughts on the topic.
Apr 06, 2019
Childbirth and reproductive health in America: Where we are and why we're here
Another dispatch from SXSW and a big, important conversation this week. We’re talking maternal health care and the worsening dangers of childbirth in the U.S. We’re also talking abortion and comprehensive sex education as part of the spectrum of reproductive health care and why so many American women deliver their babies via c-section. Paid family leave makes an appearance too. Join us as we sit down with three passionate experts and advocates on International Women’s Day, who were in Austin to present a session called Hysteria No More: Data, Doctors, and Women’s Health: Dr. Chitra Akileswaran, Co-Founder of Cleo and lecturer at Harvard Medical School Dr. Rashmi Kudesia, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at CCRM Fertility Houston Dr. Pooja Mehta, Director of Maternal and Women's Health Policy at the LSU Center Consortium for Health Transformation
Mar 28, 2019
The physical and mental toll of mass violence
In the wake of violence, some survivors appear unharmed but actually experience very real mental health injuries. Manya Chylinski, a survivor of 2013 Boston Marathon bombing who now speaks about mental trauma and resiliency & Amanda Samman, CEO of the Better Lab and trauma surgeon at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, join us on the podcast this week. We talk with Manya about her personal journey after the marathon and to Amanda about how her experience has informed how she has engaged on this issue.
Mar 21, 2019
We went to SXSW and heard a lot of things
This week: A little change of pace from the Wooden Teeth crew. We snagged a booth at the SXSW Wellness Expo and talked to anyone who’d lend an ear about this very show – and we also got their thoughts on tape about the products they were selling and what influences their chance to be healthy. Listen up for some of the best, most-interesting, and most-head-scratching products and ideas about our health.
Mar 13, 2019
What are the most effective policy proposals to improve health?
President & CEO of Trust for America’s Health, John Auerbach, joins us on the podcast as we discuss effective policy proposals to improve health. We talk about the evolution of public health, the role of Trust for America's Health (TFAH), and we dive deep about specific state-level policy ideas. TFAH recently examined 1500 policies in an effort to identify the most feasible and effective ones that states can use to improve health and control costs. Their wide-ranging findings include recommendations on income, housing, syringe access, and policy to promote healthy behavior.
Mar 06, 2019
Should people be allowed to inject illegal drugs under supervision?
Harm Reduction Action Center, drug users are provided with clean needles to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, along with other resources to help them stay healthy and avoid overdose, in addition to providing treatment referral. Last year, Denver approved a measure that would create a pilot site for a "supervised use site," a place where people could legally inject drugs under medical supervision. However, state approval would still be needed, and federal threats by the Trump Administration loom. Lisa takes us inside the world of applying a harm reduction strategy to address the needs of people who inject drugs.
Feb 27, 2019
What makes a movement succeed or fail?
Leslie Crutchfield is Executive Director of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and she’s the author of "How Change Happens: Why some social movements succeed and others don't." We talk about why societal trends go where they do and the effect those trends have on the direction of the country. Like, how did we make so much progress on LGBTQ rights while the country also stockpiled guns and ammunition? Important for us, specifically, we also talk about why, after over a century of trying, America has yet to achieve universal access to health care.
Feb 20, 2019
Is public health under siege? And other hot topics with Dr. Georges Benjamin
The Executive Director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), Dr. Georges Benjamin joins us on the podcast today. We talk about some of the greatest public health achievements of the 21st century like maternal and infant health. We also discuss climate change and why APHA thinks it’s a public health concern. Dr. Georges Benjamin gets real as he provides a critique of Trump’s State of the Union address to eradicate HIV and AIDS. And to top it all off, we talk about APHA’s recent forum titled, “Public Health Under Siege: Improving Policy in Turbulent Times, “ which featured Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and public health leaders from around the country.
Feb 13, 2019
Getting to know SiX with Jessie Ulibarri
We all know shows like The West Wing and Veep accurately portray the day-to-day lives of our elected officials. WRONG! Jessie Ulibarri is the executive director at the State Innovation Exchange (Six) and unfortunately, he’s here to tell us government is nothing like what you see on TV. Especially state government. We talk with Ulibarri about how SiX supports state legislators with tools and resources to pass progressive policies like paid family leave, criminal justice reform, paid sick days, and more. So sit back and crank up the volume as we get to know the State Innovation Exchange.
Feb 06, 2019
News with friends: Scott Wasserman
We’re trying something new today! We process current events from a public policy and public health perspective with friends of the podcast. And who better to kick this off than Scott Wasserman, president of the Bell Policy Center! We talk about the 3 M’s on this episode: medicare for all, Marxism, and marijuana. Wait, is that a thing? Probably not but we might patent it. Stay tuned. We also talk about Coloradans running for president, the federal government shutdown, and teacher strikes. Check out this episode and let us know your thoughts by rating us on iTunes!
Jan 30, 2019
Science & democracy with Michael J. Thompson
We live in a complicated society. We’re technologically advanced and scientifically complex. And while a world of information is right at our fingertips to help us dissect these convoluted studies, there’s also an abundance of misinformation spreading like wildfire. Michael J. Thompson, editor of, Anti-Science and the Assault on Democracy, discusses “fake news” around climate change, and outlandish claims about the effects of vaccines. I mean, should we trust those fancy pants scientists? Or are we holding our democracy back because we view science as left or right instead of facts?
Jan 23, 2019
What states can do to address gun violence with Ari Freilich
Ari Freilich is the staff attorney and California Legislative Affairs Director at the Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence and he joins us this week to talk about, well, guns, gun violence, and preventing gun violence. The Giffords Center was founded by former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords after she and 18 others were shot at a constituent event in a supermarket parking lot in Tucson, AZ. And whether or not you believe guns kill people or people kill people, Freilich takes us down memory lane as he explains how the 2nd Amendment has evolved from “a well-regulated militia” to something more like “assault weapons for all.” He also highlights the role of guns in today’s escalating rates of suicide. Most gun-related deaths today are the result of suicide, not homicide. The rising rate of gun-related deaths has also contributed to a drop in life-expectancy for Americans. So why aren’t we considering this a public health crisis? Don’t worry though. It’s not all sad. We end on a positive note as Freilich discusses policy steps that can be taken at the state level to reduce gun violence. So let’s dive in!
Jan 16, 2019
Wages and public health with J. Paul Leigh, PhD
How much you earn directly affects your chances at good health. Straightforward enough, right? Well, sorta. J. Paul Leigh, PhD, Professor of Economics within the Public Health Division at UC-Davis, clues us in this week on how it’s actually a lot more than simple cause-and-effect. He caught our eye recently when he published a piece with Juan Du on the effects of minimum wage on the population’s health. We chat about the health effects of wages, job satisfaction, and unemployment – and why it’s taken so long for researchers to study all this. Particularly interesting are the outcomes of a higher wage for lower earners. If they can now buy things that are better for their health, they can also buy things that are worse for their health. So which wins out?
Jan 09, 2019
Edgar Villanueva, vicious cycles, and 'Decolonizing Wealth'
Edgar Villanueva has a new book. But more than that, he has a set of solutions to the pernicious problem of white men controlling the flow of philanthropic money in our country. His solutions are rooted in Native wisdom and he’s a member of the Lumbee Tribe, hailing originally from North Carolina. We discuss how foundations are stuck in vicious cycles, often reluctant to engage in upending a system that generated their wealth in the first place. And when it comes to health, they’re often stuck on an endless carousel of being hesitant to solve the public policy issues that created the health problems that the foundation was set up to fix in the first place.
Dec 19, 2018
Marion Nestle and the politics of food, sugar, scientific research, and public health

Author, professor, and general public health force of nature Marion Nestle joins us this week.

Her newest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, examines the influence that food companies exert on the research that tags their products as healthy or not. As you might imagine, when food companies fund research, the results often come out looking prettttttttttty good for those companies.

Marion also shares some fascinating anecdotes, including how the how the Russian hack of John Podesta’s emails during the 2016 presidential election turned out to have a connection back to her and the Coca-Cola Company.

She’s the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Emerita, at New York University. She is also a professor of Sociology at NYU and a visiting professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University.

Dec 12, 2018
Fear and its affect on public health

Three researchers are the first people to study how living in fear changes our health. How do you measure such a thing? What contributes to a person’s fears? What’s the political climate’s affect on fear, especially with constant threats of mass deportation and repeatedly stoked fears of crime?

Another dispatch from the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, we join Marie-Claude Couture, Dellanira Garcia, and Erin Grinshteyn of the University of San Francisco to examine how fear is damaging our chances at healthy lives.

With American life expectancy declining for the third straight year and substance use causing much of the decline, join our critical conversation to find out how fear is ratcheting up substance use rates and hurting our health in many other ways.

Learn more and read their critical research:

Determinants of fear of crime

Electronic bullying and missing school as a result of fear

Fear of crime and anxiety/depression

Fear of physical, emotional, and financial abuse

Dec 05, 2018
What Black women can teach us about health
From a giant (echoey) conference room at the American Public Health Association’s annual conference, Jake sits down with Linda Blount, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Health Imperative. Linda explains BWHI’s mission of reducing health disparities for Black women and fills us in on what we can learn from Black women about the public’s health. She’s got fascinating thoughts as well on how we sell public health like companies sell products, that is, how we make people want better health. Linda also joins in to bust some health myths – you know we love that – and brings the politics as well. With Black women more-or-less always saving the electoral chances of Democratic candidates, why aren’t those Democrats delivering for Black women? And what can we do about it?
Nov 28, 2018
Taking on 'traffic violence' in New York City
Transportation Alternatives advocates for New York City’s streets to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists. They’ve got to navigate both the difficult physical and political terrain in their quest to make the city safe for residents who want to commute by walking and biking. How do you organize to move elected officials? How do you change the characterization of injuries and deaths from “accidents” into “traffic violence?” Transportation Alternatives Director of Advocacy Thomas Devito joins us to chat about the future of active transportation in the country’s biggest city.
Nov 14, 2018
Rich Pelletier and what's next for Bernie Sanders
Last night, Democrats seized control of the House of Representatives after a campaign waged on the issue of health care and as a check on President Trump. With midterm-induced change ringing in our head, we check in with Rich Pelletier, who was Bernie Sanders’s National Field Director. What’s next for Bernie? How did Bernie manage to so substantially outperform expectations? What do voters really want in the next presidential candidate?
Nov 07, 2018
Intro/Brad Woodhouse
Hey! It’s officially time for the Wooden Teeth to start chattering! We’re here to bust some myths, find out where your health collides with politics, laugh, and take some action. For our inaugural episode, we’ve got Brad Woodhouse in Washington, DC, who runs Protect Our Care, the organization fighting to defend the Affordable Care Act. And Brad’s magnificent Carolina accent. We’ve got that too.
Oct 30, 2018
Coming soon!
We’ll be up with our inaugural episode real soon. For now though, to get a taste of where we’ll meander on the podcast, here’s a recent piece that our host wrote and was featured on Medium. Jake discusses his Native heritage, Elizabeth Warren’s recent DNA test to ‘prove’ hers amid insults from the president, what it means to erase a culture, and his own struggle with identity. My father (my full-blooded grandfather’s son) presents as nonwhite and has spent much of his life working in Indian country. I present as white, and I get to reap all the benefits of that status as I walk through the world. This status does not excuse me from what I now consider to be my responsibility to represent my Native heritage. There was a period in my life, however, when I concealed an important piece of who I am because of resentful mockery akin to the kind invoked by Trump.
Oct 24, 2018