An American Health Dilemma / Edition 1

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Overview

At times mirroring and at times shockingly disparate to the rise of traditional white American medicine, the history of African-American health care is a story of traditional healers; root doctors; granny midwives; underappreciated and overworked African-American physicians; scrupulous and unscrupulous white doctors and scientists; governmental support and neglect; epidemics; and poverty. Virtually every part of this story revolves around race. More than 50 years after the publication of An American Dilemma, Gunnar Myrdal's 1944 classic about race relations in the USA, An American Health Dilemma presents a comprehensive and groundbreaking history and social analysis of race, race relations and the African-American medical and public health experience. Beginning with the origins of western medicine and science in Egypt, Greece and Rome the authors explore the relationship between race, medicine, and health care from the precursors of American science and medicine through the days of the slave trade with the harrowing middle passage and equally deadly breaking-in period through the Civil War and the gains of reconstruction and the reversals caused by Jim Crow laws. It offers an extensive examination of the history of intellectual and scientific racism that evolved to give sanction to the mistreatment, medical abuse, and neglect of African Americans and other non-white people. Also included are biographical portraits of black medical pioneers like James McCune Smith, the first African American to earn a degree from a European university, and anecdotal vignettes,like the tragic story of "the Hottentot Venus", which illustrate larger themes.

An American Health Dilemma promises to become an irreplaceable and essential look at African-American and medical history and will provide an invaluable baseline for future exploration of race and racism in the American health system.

The book contains black-and-white illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Kirby Randolph(University of Pennsylvania)
Description: The authors of this text trace the medical history of African-Americans from the earliest African records to 1900.
Purpose: The authors, both obstetrician gynecologists and who hold masters degrees in public health, examine the history of racial disparities in U.S. healthcare in order to assist in the struggle to realize parity in health outcomes and status with other Americans. This is an ambitious and worthy project. Of the recent scholarship analyzing the medical experiences of African-Americans, no other is as comprehensive in scope. The authors convincingly meet their educational objective.
Audience: The book is written for public health policymakers and students, healthcare providers, and students of American medical and African-American history.
Features: This work is a good introduction to scientific thinking about race, access to healthcare, medical education, and differential health outcomes for African-Americans. Although this work is a synthesis, it fills a void in the literature as the authors place the experience and perspective of African-Americans at the center of the analysis. The book is heavily footnoted and will prove useful to students and researchers.
Assessment: Weaknesses include scope and repetition. The authors present the material in ways some historians will take issue with, but the value of their contribution is obvious. This book should be in every library.
Kirby Randolph(University of Pennsylvania)
The authors of this text trace the medical history of African-Americans from the earliest African records to 1900. The authors, both obstetrician gynecologists and who hold masters degrees in public health, examine the history of racial disparities in U.S. healthcare in order to assist in the struggle to realize parity in health outcomes and status with other Americans. This is an ambitious and worthy project. Of the recent scholarship analyzing the medical experiences of African-Americans, no other is as comprehensive in scope. The authors convincingly meet their educational objective. The book is written for public health policymakers and students, healthcare providers, and students of American medical and African-American history. This work is a good introduction to scientific thinking about race, access to healthcare, medical education, and differential health outcomes for African-Americans. Although this work is a synthesis, it fills a void in the literature as the authors place the experience and perspective of African-Americans at the center of the analysis. The book is heavily footnoted and will prove useful to students and researchers. Weaknesses include scope and repetition. The authors present the material in ways some historians will take issue with, but the value of their contribution is obvious. This book should be in every library.
Journal of the American Medical Association
This is a staggeringly ambitious work, compellingly written and meticulously documented. An American Health Dilemma is not the first attempt to document race-based biomedical inequities, but it surely represents the most comprehensive effort to place black health in its full sociohistorical context. Even readers familiar with the broad contours of the history of African-American health will find fresh revelations here....They should be read by every medical student who will ever treat an African-American patient, every medical educator who wants to avoid perpetuating racial fallacies, and every physician who wonders why black patients do not embrace biomedicine with open arms.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the first of a projected two-volume work, the authors, both physicians and senior research scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health, document how, from their first arrival on these shores, blacks received inferior health care. Slaves faced a multitude of health risks: among them were accidents, whippings, cold, heat, exhaustion (pregnant slaves often miscarried) and poor sanitation. Planters rarely summoned white physicians to treat their slaves; generally, black grannies, midwives, root doctors and healers cared for their people. African-American health got worse during and after the Civil War, when the imperfect plantation health care system vanished overnight. A racist postwar society used Darwinism, biological determinism and skull measurements to argue that African-Americans were destined to poor health and extinction. In response, led by pioneering black doctors like James McCune Smith and David John Peck, African-Americans built their own medical schools and hospitals. Black physicians became community leaders and proclaimed health care a civil right. Still, at century's end, African-Americans were segregated and excluded from the mainstream health system. This is an important book, but it is not a well-organized, well-written work of history. The authors attempt to pack several books under one cover: a history of racism over the last 2,000 years; a survey of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Arabian medicine; an indictment of the U.S. health care system and of modern America as a hopelessly racist land; and a book of political advocacy and reform. The best part of this volume is its last half, containing the actual history of African-American health from 1619 forward. The dense, stilted, academic prose style serves the authors poorly, but their book contains too much valuable information to ignore. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Byrd and his wife, Clayton, are affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. Their book, the first of two volumes, presents current statistics on racial disparities in American healthcare as a prolog to a comprehensive and heavily documented history of healthcare by and for black Americans. The authors trace the history of African American medicine, from its traditional roots in Egyptian and sub-Saharan practices that were brought to the New World by slave healers and midwives, through the remarkable black doctors who broke the color line of 19th-century medicine, to the founding of Howard University's Medical School in 1867, and the beginning of its long and distinguished service to American medicine. This amazing story takes place, however, in the context of a parallel narrative outlining the appalling cruelty, neglect, and scientific racism that mark the medical history of the American slave trade and its post-Civil War aftermath. This path-breaking work and its future companion volume will long remain an essential reference for scholars and serious readers in both medical history and African American studies.--Kathy Arsenault, Univ. of South Florida, St. Petersburg Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\

3 Stars from Doody
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415924498
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 8/1/2000
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 624
  • Sales rank: 1,353,954
  • Lexile: 1560L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Race, Biology, and Health Care in the United States: Reassessing a Relationship

Chapter Two: Black Health in the Pre-Colonial Period

Chapter Three: Black Health in the North American English Colonies: 1619 to 1731

Chapter Four: Black Health in the

Republican Era: 1731-1812

Chapter Five: Black Health in the Jacksonian Period: 1812-1861

Chapter Six: The Civil War, Reconstruction, and Post-Reconstruction and Black Health, 1861-1900

Conclusion: Laying the Foundations of a Dual and Unequal Health System

Harvard University)

for anyone interested in correcting the existing inequalities in the current health system (U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr.)

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