Weekend Watchlist #5: Heroin(e), A World Health Day Special

Image source: wvpublic.org

Greetings, friends! ’Tis finally the weekend again, and with the weekend comes World Health Day! World Health Day falls on the 7th of April every year, promoting a different campaign theme. This year, the World Health Day campaign is all about raising awareness on universal health coverage. That’s why our pick for this Weekend Watchlist is the Oscar-nominated documentary, Heroin(e) – about three kick-ass women working together to solve one of the biggest health crises in modern history. So get comfy, get relaxed, and settle in for an informative yet emotionally gripping 39 minutes.

First though, we’re going to talk a little about universal health coverage. Because it’s important, and it’s always good to be informed on global issues.

What does Universal Health Coverage mean? 

Universal health coverage seeks to ensure all people access to quality health services, wherever and whenever they need them, without having to suffer financial hardship. This is based on the belief that no one should be forced to make a choice between good health and other life necessities. UHC is a totally feasible concept, and is key to people’s and nation’s health and well-being. One of the ways that we can achieve universal health coverage is to begin designing health services around and for people, rather than around diseases and institutions.

About our Weekend Watchlist pick for this World Health Day, Heroin(e):

In light of this year’s World Health Day campaign theme, we thought it would be important to highlight a documentary which makes a case for universal health care. Heroin(e) tells the true story of the town of Huntington, West Virginia in the U.S. – once an industrial town, Huntington is now at the centre of America’s opioid crisis. Filmmaker Elaine McMillion highlights three women in her documentary, each working to change the town’s fate and to break the devastating cycle of drug abuse that is rampant not just in Huntington, but all over the U.S.

Fire Chief Jan Rader is one of the remarkable women profiled in the documentary, Heroin(e). Most of her daily work includes reviving drug overdose victims. Image source: businessinsider.my

While the documentary points out several key issues in the conversation about the American opioid crisis, it is the resilience of the three women in the documentary that is the most impactful part of the film. The first of these women is Fire Chief Jan Rader, who spends day after day working to revive people who have overdosed on heroin. As the camera crew follow Rader as she works, the extent of the opioid crisis becomes clear. All day, she is called to different locations where people have overdosed – some of whom have been revived on multiple occasions.

Image source: heroinethefilm.com

Then there’s Judge Patricia Keller, who presides over drug court, who hands down empathy and kindness along with her sentences – inspiring many drug addicts to stay clean. The documentary also follows Necia Freeman, who works to provide care to women sex workers who are also drug addicts. Other than providing advice and motivation to these women, Freeman and her organisation called the Brown Bag Ministry also provide meals to keep them, at least, from being hungry.

With health crises occurring even in developed nations, it becomes clear that the need to access quality health services without facing financial hardship is truly a universal need. Not only is it a gripping insight into the devastation caused by the opioid crises in America, Heroin(e) is an also testimony to the importance of resilience, strength and compassion in the face of adversity.

Watch the trailer here:

What can I do to make a difference this World Health Day?

Making a tangible difference can seem like a daunting task. I get it – we’re not all activists, healthcare providers or doctors – so where do we start in trying to make a change? Well, we’ve learned from the documentary Heroin(e) that compassion and empathy go a long way when it comes to solving any kind of issue – whether it’s health related or otherwise. So apart from practicing being kind and compassionate to those around you, there is another simple, yet extremely important role that you can play in the fight for universal health care. Simply talk about it! Start a conversation about UHC, or take part in a conversation. Share the campaign on social media, and tag your posts with #HealthFor All and #WorldHealthDay. Get your friends and family talking about UHC too!

Watch Heroin(e) on Netflix here.


Looking for something to watch next? Check out our Weekend Watchlist about the late, great poet Dr. Maya Angelou or check out our list of the top 10 girl-power movies of all time.

About Sunita Soh

Hello! I’m Sunita, a proud “dan lain-lain” Malaysian with a passion for feminism and really good char kuey teow. When I’m not rescuing cats or making endless playlists on Spotify, you can find me with my nose buried in a book or glued to my laptop watching cooking tutorials.

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