BOOK REVIEW: REIMAGINING GLOBAL HEALTH, AN INTRODUCTION, by Paul Farmer et al.
Ordinarily, my contributions to the Health Care Blog have been brief reports on current developments in global health. This time I want to call your attention to a recently published book—Reimagining Global Health, that I feel is a critically important resource for all of us who participate in mission health care. As you are aware, most textbooks, including those on public health, tend to be somewhat dry and academic. They require a lot of sifting to glean useful information that applies to our work in the field. Not so with this volume. Written by Paul Farmer and his many cohorts at Partners in Health, its pages are full of their front line experiences, which they combine seamlessly with a succinct history of the development of the field of global health, then a discussion of the major important issues confronting our world’s state of ill health today. The emphasis is on the two thirds world, but a cogent analysis of the current situation in the US is included. Several pertinent topics stood out for me:
1. The unique challenge of mental health issues, the most prevalent cause of disability worldwide
2. The chapter on values and global health, which emphasizes the need to seriously examine underlying moral issues, and the important role that religious motivation and dedication has played in the recent emphasis on global health.
3. A concept that the authors feel is the optimal approach to the delivery and proper use of material aid and human resources, both by governments and by NGOs (that’s us). They call this approach accompaniment. This means “supporting developing country partners---public and private---until they have the capacity to deliver services and improve livelihoods in the long term.” Accompaniment enables the poorer countries to build effective systems for economic development and health care delivery. It also “seeks to redress unequal development”.
The authors do not propose simple solutions to the complex problems of global health. Instead they provide a beginning roadmap that includes the lessons taught by history and their extensive, often successful experiences. We can do worse than following their advice.