Public health books, movies, and board Games

Amid my journey through my MPH program, I made an active effort to stay inspired by reading and keeping entertained through “public health” books, movies, and games. Whether it was fiction or nonfiction, and whether I learnt something or just got a little giggle from how exaggerated certain scenarios were, I truly enjoyed it.

As I graduated and began to work in the field (as an Epidemiologist) I continued to read these books. Knowing how much I enjoyed this, we decided to compile a list for you.

We love hearing opinions, so if you want to let the PH SPOT community know about your take on a certain book, movie, or board game, get in touch with us to write a blog:!


The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat
By Jeff Benedict

Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
By David Quammen

The Hot Zone
A Terrifying True Story
By Richard Preston

The Invisible Cure
Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS
By Helen Epstein

Polio: An American Story
By David Oshinsky

The Wisdom of Whores
Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS
 By Elizabeth Pisani

The Ghost Map
The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
By Steven Johnson

Mountains Beyond Mountains
The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World
By Tracy Kidder

Deadly Choices
How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All
By Paul A. Offit

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010)
By Rebecca Skloot

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures
By Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The Great Influenza
The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
By John M. Barry

Beating Back the Devil
On the Front Lines with the Disease Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service
By Maryn McKenna

The Emperor of All Maladies
A Biography of Cancer
By Siddhartha Mukherjee

A Plague of Prisons
The Epidemiology of Mass Incarceration
By Ernest Drucker

The invisible Cure
Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS in Africa
By Helen Epstein

The End of Poverty
Economic Possibilities for Our Time
By Jeffrey Sachs

The White Man’s Burden
Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good
By William Easterly

Development as Freedom
By Amartya Sen

A Doctor and Her Patients on the Front Lines of the Obesity-Diabetes Epidemic
By Francine R. Kaufman MD  

The Panic Virus
The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy
By Seth Mnookin

And the Band Played On
Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic
By Randy Shilts

The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story
By Richard Preston

Betrayal of Trust
The Collapse of Global Public Health
By Laurie Garrett

The Coming Plague
Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance
By Laurie Garrett

Insane Consequences
How the Mental Health Industry Fails the Mentally Ill
By DJ Jaffe, E. Fuller Torrey MD

Pathologies of Power
Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor
By Paul Farmer and Amartya Sen

To Repair the World
Paul Farmer Speaks to the Next Generation
By Paul Farmer and Jonathan Weigel

House on Fire
The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox
By William H. Foege

Inside the Outbreaks
The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service
By Mark Pendergrast

The Fever
How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years
By Sonia Shah

Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
By  Sonia Shah


  • Contagion
    Healthcare professionals, government officials and everyday people find themselves in the midst of a worldwide epidemic as the CDC works to find a cure.
  • And the Band Played On
    The story of the discovery of the A.I.D.S. epidemic, and the political infighting of the scientific community hampering the early fight with it.
  • Living In Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders
    In the war-zones of Liberia and Congo, four volunteers with Doctors Without Borders struggle to provide emergency medical care under extreme conditions.
  • Malaria: Fever Wars
    Highlights man’s interminable fight against malaria, a disease which kills millions every year, and which is continuing to worsen.
  • Philadelphia
    Stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington as two competing lawyers who join forces to sue a prestigious law firm for AIDS discrimination.
  • RX for Survival: A Global Health Challenge
    Examines critical worldwide threats from old diseases and bizarre new ailments resistant to modern medicine. The six-episode series profiles such diseases as Ebola fever, SARS, the West Nile virus, HIV/AIDS, and the avian flu.
  • A Walk to Beautiful
    This program tells the story of three women in Ethiopia suffering from devastating childbirth injuries.
  • Water First: Reaching the Millennium Development Goals
    Reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is a documentary film by Amy Hart. The film was made in Malawi, Africa
  • How to Survive a Plague (2012)
    The story of two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) — whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.
  • Sicko
    A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care industry to other nations, and HMO horror stories including shotgun deaths.
  • Erin Brockovich
    Desperate for a job to support herself and her three children, she convinces attorney Ed Masry to hire her, and promptly stumbles upon a monumental law case against a giant corporation.
  • Outbreak
    Extreme measures are necessary to contain an epidemic of a deadly airborne virus. But how extreme, exactly?
  • Blindness
    A city is ravaged by an epidemic of instant white blindness.
  • Miss Evers’ Boys (1997)
    The true story of the U.S. Government’s 1932 Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, in which a group of black test subjects were allowed to die, despite a cure having been developed.


Z-man Games

Pandemic: In The Lab Expansion Game

Pandemic: Contagion

Pandemic Board Game

Pandemic: The Cure

The Last Straw!
A fun and exciting teaching tool on the social determinants of health.

If you know of anymore books, movies, or games, we would love for you to share it below in the comments, or shoot us an email at so we can update this list!

To be completely transparent, PH SPOT is an affiliate for some of these products (links that take you to Amazon website). Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, PH SPOT will earn a commission (yay!). Be assured that this commission comes at no additional cost to you. If you choose to purchase any of these items, we want to thank you in advance for your click through these links.


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