Health and Wellness Documentaries

Elisa Lichtenbaum | April 16, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic evolves and our lives seem to be turned upside down, it’s natural to feel anxious and overwhelmed, and even not tend to health issues unrelated to the disease COVID-19. Self-care is more important than ever during these exceptionally stressful times, and THIRTEEN is here to help with health and wellness programs that address science, research, therapy and ways to enjoy homecooked meals.

Whether you’re trying to knock off those five nagging pounds, want to know the latest breakthroughs in the fight against COVID-19, or simply need some wholesome serenity now, we’ve got you covered with shows focused on well-being during these challenging times. Stream them here or on the THIRTEEN Explore app.

NOVA: The Truth About Fat

Do diet and exercise really help with weight control? Why do some people contend with the battle of the bulge while others struggle to put on a few pounds? Scientists are coming to understand fat as a dynamic organ – one whose size may have more to do with biological processes than personal choices. Explore the mysteries of fat and its role in hormone production, hunger, and even pregnancy in this fascinating NOVA special.

Watch Now.

Blood Sugar Rising

Diabetes and pre-diabetes is a serious disease that raises high blood sugar (glucose) levels. More than 100 million people in the United States – nearly 10 percent of the population – suffer from Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, which drives health costs to more than $325 billion each year. This film takes a close look at this epidemic, putting human faces to these statistics, and exploring the history and science of diabetes through the personal stories of Americans living with the disease. One person featured is a farmer and advocate from the Bronx. The documentary also shines a light on the scientific insights and innovations offering new hope in the fight against diabetes.

Watch Now. Watch with Spanish subtitles.

Diabetes is an underlying medical condition that increases the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. See the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for its tips on how to be prepared for getting sick and what to do if ill.

The Gene: An Intimate History

This two-part, four-hour documentary executive produced by Ken Burns focuses on the mapping of the human genome and the moral implications of new technologies that offer both promise and peril. Powerful personal stories and stunning breakthroughs include one scientist’s research on the very disease she has herself.

“At this pivotal moment when scientists find themselves in a new era in which they’re able to control and change the human genome, The Gene offers a nuanced understanding of how we arrived at this point and how genetics will continue to influence our fates,” said Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, whose bestseller on how genes impact heredity, disease and behavior inspired the documentary. Dr. Mukherjee recently appeared on Amanpour and Company to discuss the language of epidemiology during the coronavirus pandemic.

Watch The Gene: An Intimate History.

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More Health and Wellness Documentaries


Frontline: Coronavirus Pandemic (Available April 21)

American Black Journal: Coronavirus Impact

Mental Health

Basic Black: Mental Health and Loneliness

Broken Places

The Definition of Insanity

Independent Lens: Bedlam

On Call: Health + Medicine: Adolescents and Mental Health


Amanpour and Company: Cancer Activist Fran Drescher Interview

Cancer: A Conversation

Independent Lens: Jim Allison: Breakthrough (Available beginning April 27)

NOVA: Cuba’s Cancer Hope (Watch through April 29; after, with the THIRTEEN member benefit THIRTEEN Passport).

Heart Health and More

On Call: Health + Medicine examines health care solutions, medical advances, and promising research. Hosted by PBS NewsHour Weekend anchor Hari Sreenivasan, On Call invites leading physicians and scientists from NewYork-Presbyterian and other tri-state area hospitals to discuss new research and cutting-edge treatment of stroke, heart disease, mental health, and more.

On Call: Health + Medicine: Heart Disease

American Black Journal: Heart Health for African-American Women

Cooking, Nutrition and Food

American Experience: The Man Who Tried to Feed the World (Available beginning April 21)

America Revealed: The Food Machine, with host Yul Kwon

A Chef’s Life series (Available through May 29, 2020)

Food Over 50 series

No Passport Required series. (Watch Season 2 through April 24; after, with the THIRTEEN member benefit THIRTEEN Passport).

Somewhere South series (Watch through May 21, 2020; after, with the THIRTEEN member benefit THIRTEEN Passport).