My Favourite Global Health Books

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Whenever I get DMs or emails, a majority of them ask about how one can pursue or enlighten themselves on the topic of 'Global Health'.  This is challenging as the phrase is an umbrella term for a truly multidisciplinary field.  However, these books are fantastic for those wanting to dip their toe in the water to learn or improve their understanding of global/public health without cracking open a textbook.   

The Health Gap by Sir Michael Marmot



Sir Michael Marmot has been one of many leading the conversation about social determinants of health and their impact on health and wellbeing.  He pioneered the Whitehall studies that analysed the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and mortality amongst British civil servants. Thus, coining the term 'Status Syndrome'.  His writing emphasises on how the definition of health is contextual and the innate requirement for health systems and policies to address this unmet need.  As stated in his book, we treat patients in our clinic and put them back in the very environment that made them sick in the first place. 

Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer



This is a slightly heavier read in comparison to 'The Health Gap' but equally as phenomenal.  Paul Farmer is one of five individuals that founded the 'Partners in Health' nonprofit health care organisation.   It aims to develop and provide access to appropriate healthcare for poverty-stricken nations.   The book can be difficult to swallow when learning about the heart wrenching conditions and environments of the world's most under privileged.  Nonetheless, what makes this a written masterpiece is the underlying optimism and hope.  Farmer explores potential solutions with evidence and examples on how we can improve the situation of many helpless people through realistic approaches.  He, too, highlights the importance of policy and how lack of access to care is a breach of human rights.  

The Great Influenza by John Barry



This is easily one of my favourite books.  The approach that John Barry takes in depicting the history of the 1918 Influenza resembles that of a thriller novel. Despite the slow start, this biography of one of the greatest pandemics in history builds momentum as we learn about the key players in public health during this time, the impact of this infection, and the importance of research and development.  Many of these lessons are applied in similar situations today.  In light of the 2019-nCoV (Coronavirus) outbreak, this book actually forewarned why we may soon be experiencing another viral epidemic when published in 2009.  If you have a keen eye for infectious disease and epidemiology, this is a terrifying yet brilliant read.  

Fighting for Life by Sara Josephine Baker



Dr Josephine Baker was Physician and Public Health/Medical Inspector Civil Servant with a particular interest in migrant health within the New York population.  In addition to this, she worked to improve the health of children - especially those succumbed to urban poverty.  Dr Baker campaigned the hiring of nurses in schools, the importance of preventative medicine, and tracked down the infamous Typhoid Mary.  Mary Mallon was a cook that transferred the Salmonella enterica pathogen and thus typhoid fever via being an asymptomatic carrier.  Not only is this an autobiography which explores the presence and impact of social inequalities, but acknowledges the difficulties women faced in championing change, then and now.  Public health and woman empowerment - can you think of a more dynamic duo?

And those are my top books for the moment.  These are comprehensive for those who simply want an engaging read or those pursuing the field.  


Happy reading!
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