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Getting What We Deserve: Health and Medical Care in America

Overview

One of America's leading public health experts finds a host of ills in this country's health care system:

• The United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as the rest of the developed world, yet has higher infant mortality rates and shorter longevity than most nations.• We have access to many different drugs that accomplish the same end at varying costs, and nearly all are cheaper abroad.• Our life span had doubled over the past century before we developed effective drugs to treat most diseases or ...

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Overview

One of America's leading public health experts finds a host of ills in this country's health care system:

• The United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as the rest of the developed world, yet has higher infant mortality rates and shorter longevity than most nations.• We have access to many different drugs that accomplish the same end at varying costs, and nearly all are cheaper abroad.• Our life span had doubled over the past century before we developed effective drugs to treat most diseases or even considered altering the human genome.• The benefits of almost all newly developed treatments are marginal, while their costs are high.

In his blunt assessment of the state of public health in America, Alfred Sommer argues that human behavior has a stronger effect on wellness than almost any other factor.

Despite exciting advances in genomic research and cutting-edge medicine, Sommer explains, most illness can be avoided or managed with simple, low-tech habits such as proper hand washing, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and not smoking. But, as he also shows, this is easier said than done.

Sommer finds that our fascination with medical advances sometimes keeps us from taking responsibility for our individual well-being. Instead of focusing on prevention, we wait for medical science to cure us once we become sick.

Humorous, sometimes acerbic, and always well informed, Sommer’s thought-provoking book will change the way you look at health care in America.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

American Journal of Epidemiology
Al Sommer, former Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a giant in the world of public health, has written a thought-provoking and insightful short course on the power of prevention. Indeed, the book is delightfully not just another treatise on universal access or the complexities of health insurance. Instead, it is a commonsense and concise case for the health benefits and cost savings that accrue from public health in all its breadth.

— Roberta B. Ness

Choice

This volume is a timely, easy-to-read, practical treatise on health care reform.

American Journal of Opthalmology
Alfred Sommer brings his vast global experience and applies his academic rigor and wit to look at contradictions inherent in the US health system, especially the disproportionate emphasis on expensive biomedical treatment of diseases over policy choices to invest in better social and economic environments that foster prevention and health promotion. This book is immensely timely, engaging and thought provoking—a must read.
Washington Post
In contrast to the confusing, politicized national conversation about health care, Sommer talks to the reader in a straightforward fashion.
Booklist
An ideal, nonalarmist first book on what needs reforming in American health care.
American Journal of Epidemiology - Roberta B. Ness
Al Sommer, former Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a giant in the world of public health, has written a thought-provoking and insightful short course on the power of prevention. Indeed, the book is delightfully not just another treatise on universal access or the complexities of health insurance. Instead, it is a commonsense and concise case for the health benefits and cost savings that accrue from public health in all its breadth.
Choice
This volume is a timely, easy-to-read, practical treatise on health care reform.
Publishers Weekly
Both an ophthalmologist and a public health expert at Johns Hopkins, Sommer can honestly claim to have affected millions of lives with his pioneering work in vitamin A deficiency and blindness prevention. In this small gem he gamely takes on America's health care crisis. “We have lost sight of the essentials” that underlie good health, he declares. Making ample use of graphs, tables and maps to illustrate his clear history, Sommer offers a commonsense approach to our dilemma. Want to understand the West's dramatic improvements in life expectancy? Consider simple, inexpensive improvements in standards of living and public health, such as sanitation and nutrition, that predated the explosion of drugs and medical interventions, he asserts. Will the “public option” impair our national health? Look no further than Canada and England, where it works—and where residents are just as long-lived and healthy. Sommer concludes that Americans' health will improve as they “adopt healthier lifestyles and as better, more cost-effective interventions are developed and made available to all.” His cry may get lost in the noisy national debate, but its clarity deserves to be heard. 31 line drawings. (Dec.)
Library Journal
Take a step back and use some common sense, Sommer (epidemiology & internal health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Sch. of Public Health) seems to be saying. Opposing what we've been led to believe about the health-care situation in the United States, he posits that there's less complexity than meets the eye and that solutions are possible. First illustrating how much improvement there was in life expectancy in the 20th century even before the advent of antibiotics and advanced technology, he proceeds to emphasize the importance of environment—e.g., hygiene, pollution, smoking—in creating public health problems and the relatively simple steps to improvement. Sommer writes about the need for evidence to temper the knee-jerk use of technological and pharmaceutical innovations and the glaring contrast between our market-based system and the universal systems in other industrialized countries in meeting the needs of all people. VERDICT Sommer keeps it short and clear, with plenty of understandable graphs and charts. His commonsense points will interest consumers trying to understand the ongoing debate as well as policymakers.—Dick Maxwell, Porter Adventist Hosp. Lib., Denver
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801893872
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2009
  • Edition description: 20
  • Pages: 152
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Alfred Sommer, M.D., M.H.S., is the former dean and a professor of epidemiology and international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Sommer has written about and studied public health and illnesses for more than three decades. He is the winner of the 1997 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Genesis: From Few to Many-in Fits and Starts 1

2 Disease Is The Sum Of All Evils 10

3 Genes: Sometimes "Destiny," Sometimes Not 26

4 The Complex Nature of Causality 32

5 The Consequences of Our Own Behavior 37

6 Choosing The Healthier Lifestyle 54

7 From Science To Policy: The Path Is Anything but Linear 67

8 The U.S. Health Care System 73

9 Who's Healthy? Who's Not? Why 109

Notes 115

Further Reading, Films, and Websites of Interest 123

Index 127

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