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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Edwin Holtum, MS (University of Iowa)
Description: This is a survey of American public health advances in the 20th century.
Purpose: The work is not intended to be a comprehensive history; it is, instead, a summary of America's foremost public health successes as summarized by prominent scientists and historians. To this end, the book succeeds admirably.
Audience: Although the editors, a scientist and a historian, do not identify the intended audience, the book seems targeted at students and researchers in public health as well as medical and social historians. The editors and the authors of the individual chapters present uniformly impressive credentials.
Features: Each of the 10 sections of the book focuses on a particular topic (e.g., tobacco and disease prevention; control of infectious diseases) and includes a highly readable review chapter written by a scientist followed by a chapter written by an academic historian. This companion chapter focuses on a key theme in the history of the topic and helps draw attention to larger cultural and political events surrounding it. For the most part, this somewhat unconventional approach achieves its purpose.
Assessment: Since the sections are defined by specific health concerns rather than by broader scientific, cultural, and political currents, the book is probably most useful for readers looking for a concise and reliable resource on the specific topics it covers. It is also thoroughly referenced, providing a solid springboard from which to begin more detailed study.