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From The CriticsReviewer: Samuel Dorevitch, MD, MPH (University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health)
Description: This book describes diverse elements of medicine and public health under the category of humanitarian medicine. Ranging from disaster relief efforts to nuclear nonproliferation to providing care to people in poverty, this work highlights activities of the United Nations and World Health Organization in these areas.
Purpose: Although not stated in the preface, the purpose of this book is to showcase the philosophies and activities of the International Association for Humanitarian Medicine (IAHM). It addresses in a patchy and at times superficial way elements of humanitarian medicine, while emphasizing the history and activities of the IAHM. A more worthy objective might have been the promotion of humanitarian thinking and action on the part of medical practitioners.
Audience: Although not stated, the audience would appear to be readers with a specific interest in the evolution of the International Association for Humanitarian Medicine and the promotion of medical efforts by the World Health Organization. The editors and several of the contributors have played prominent leadership roles in the World Health Organization, the United Nations, or the International Association of Humanitarian Medicine.
Features: This book addresses three main topics. First, it defines and provides historical information about the concept of health for all as a human right and the efforts of the World Health Organization to promote this right. Second, it offers perspectives (but not how-to information) about disaster relief work. Third, it briefly presents a diverse array of topics that address various social dimensions of medicine, including infectious diseases in the developing world, chronic diseases and the developed world, nuclear proliferation, and medically vulnerable populations. Many of the chapters are summaries of conference proceedings, including conferences held several years prior the 2008 publication date of this work.
Assessment: While showcasing the activities of a specific organization, the often disjointed elements of the book fail to either inspire or provide practical solutions for critical societal problems. The book contains several insightful essays, but is neither textbook nor history nor philosophical treatise. Readers interested in these topics should consider other sources of information and inspiration.