A microscopic image of the flu virus. (iStock)

How can people tackle the world’s thorniest health challenges? From journalism to activism to philanthropy, there are plenty of ways to change the course of human health. A new podcast, “Contagious Conversations,” shows how.

The show is produced by the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit group that mobilizes the private sector to help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect public health. The podcast’s first season is available now.

Topics range from global disease threats to disability rights to health inequality — issues that are brought down to earth using personal stories and perspectives.

In the first episode, host Claire Stinson interviews Maryn McKenna, a journalist who covers the dangers of outbreaks, drug-resistant diseases and other threats. McKenna tells how she switched her career from “unsuccessful dramaturge” to journalist who travels the world investigating everything from polio to the misuse of antibiotics in chickens.

Lex Frieden, who helped draft the Americans With Disabilities Act, is the focus of the second episode. The disability rights advocate talks about his personal story and the birth of the ADA. He gives a sobering glimpse into what life was like for disabled people before the act became reality.

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, chief executive of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, rounds out the season. She talks about how the foundation is using collaboration to tackle diseases, such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, sprinkling in advice on how she has used optimism and creativity in her career as an oncologist, researcher and philanthropist.

Each episode clocks in at about 30 minutes. That’s long enough to go in depth, but short enough to stay engaging. You can listen to the podcast using your app of choice. But if you tune in on its website, you can access bonus content and transcripts, too.

Ready for even more conversation? Season 2 drops this spring.