Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients.

Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients.

by Jeremy N. Smith


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Moneyball meets medicine in this remarkable chronicle of one of the greatest scientific quests of our time—the groundbreaking program to answer the most essential question for humanity: how do we live and die?—and the visionary mastermind behind it.

Medical doctor and economist Christopher Murray began the Global Burden of Disease studies to gain a truer understanding of how we live and how we die. While it is one of the largest scientific projects ever attempted—as breathtaking as the first moon landing or the Human Genome Project—the questions it answers are meaningful for every one of us: What are the world’s health problems? Who do they hurt? How much? Where? Why?

Murray argues that the ideal existence isn’t simply the longest but the one lived well and with the least illness. Until we can accurately measure how people live and die, we cannot understand what makes us sick or do much to improve it. Challenging the accepted wisdom of the WHO and the UN, the charismatic and controversial health maverick has made enemies—and some influential friends, including Bill Gates who gave Murray a $100 million grant.

In Epic Measures, journalist Jeremy N. Smith offers an intimate look at Murray and his groundbreaking work. From ranking countries’ healthcare systems (the U.S. is 37th) to unearthing the shocking reality that world governments are funding developing countries at only 30% of the potential maximum efficiency when it comes to health, Epic Measures introduces a visionary leader whose unwavering determination to improve global health standards has already changed the way the world addresses issues of health and wellness, sets policy, and distributes funding.

Editorial Reviews

Aaron Shulman

A thumping narrative about trends shaping the future.

Fareed Zakaria

We’ve all heard about the rise of Big Data and how it will have big effects. Well, this is the ultimate Big Data project and it could indeed save lives and money-big time!

Harvey V. Fineberg

Bold, brash, and brilliant…. In Epic Measures, Jeremy Smith tells a compelling story of the man who led a group of like-minded collaborators, inspired a legion of followers, irritated the establishment, and changed the way the world thinks about health and disease.

Edward O. Wilson

Jeremy Smith tells an inspiring story of how a simple idea, conceived logically and pursued with grit, can greatly improve the human condition.

Joy Portella

A page-turner that could radically change the way you view health.

Hank Green

Epic Measures is a story of people who believed…that what needed to be done could be done. It’s exciting, well-crafted, and inspirational. Like The Social Network but actually important. Saving a million lives isn’t cool. Y’know what’s cool? Saving a billion lives.

Richard E. Besser

In public health it is said that what is measured gets done. But what if the measurements were all wrong? This book should be mandatory reading. While others on the beach may have been reading mysteries, I was turning the pages of a true thriller.

Michelle Nijhuis

The Global Burden of Disease Study is not only an epic dataset, but also an epic human story…. Through fine reporting and graceful writing, Jeremy Smith reveals the high-stakes story behind the numbers that are transforming global health.

A. J. Jacobs

This book is a crash course in global health mixed with a thriller and a biography. And my goodness, what a made-for-Hollywood character at its core—a brilliant but bristly scientist out to revolutionize the way we conceive healthcare.

Bill Gates

Epic Measures is a fantastic read.

Paul Farmer

Jeremy Smith’s engaging story of a man obsessed with the numbers, and the mortal dramas they tell, reads like a novel and is better than any textbook or survey of this planet’s health.

Tina Rosenberg

Remarkably entertaining... A giant compilation of ‘who knew?’

Gary King

Reading Epic Measures is like spending time with Chris Murray—an intense intellectual treat, the sense of participating in something important, and the thrill of a riveting adventure. For more realism, I recommend reading this book while biking up or skiing down a terrifyingly steep mountain slope.

Publishers Weekly

Science writer Smith (Growing a Garden City) deftly blends the biography of remarkable doctor and economist Christopher Murray with a history of his greatest public health project: the Global Burden of Disease studies that chart “the entire burden of disease for every place and every person on Earth.” Smith notes the life events that put Murray on the path to his groundbreaking study: a childhood fascination with maps; family travels to Africa, where his parents ran a small hospital; a stellar academic career at Harvard; a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford; a bitter experience at the World Health Organization; and a lifelong collaboration with health statistician Alan Lopez on creating the Global Burden formula and conducting fascinating studies. Funding from billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates helped launch the Global Burden project, and in 2012, a successful “prepublication presentation” was made in Seattle. Smith’s thoughtful, data-dense material is ideal for students of public health policy, who will appreciate why one public health specialist called Murray and Lopez’s work “epic squared,” but he also makes Murray’s relentless search for a way to understand the human health condition into an inspirational tale for everyone. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Harvey V. Fineberg MD

Bold, brash, and brilliant…. In Epic Measures, Jeremy Smith tells a compelling story of the man who led a group of like-minded collaborators, inspired a legion of followers, irritated the establishment, and changed the way the world thinks about health and disease.

Kirkus Reviews

Smith (Growing a Garden City, 2010) a freelance journalist who covers health and environmental issues for Discover, the Chicago Tribune and other leading publications, chronicles an ambitious project to collect comparative data on global health issues.In 2013, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation—sponsored and funded by the Gates Foundation—issued its groundbreaking report on world health, The Global Burden of Disease, a "meticulous decades-long creation…measuring the impact of 235 causes of death, 289 diseases and injuries, and 67 risk factors for men and women in 20 age groups." The author compares the study to the Human Genome Project in its scope and potential benefits, and he identifies the impacts of health issues and available treatments on the duration and quality of life. Smith profiles the vision of director Christopher Murray, a man with a powerful desire to revolutionize the treatment of health on a global scale. Murray's passion began with summers spent assisting his parents in the operation of a mobile hospital in the African desert. Smith's formal education in health issues began in the 1980s, when he studied biology at Harvard and earned a medical degree. He also received a doctorate in international health economics from Oxford. In 1998, he became the director of a short-lived World Health Organization project to issue an independent, evidence-based report on world health, a report that was a predecessor of the 2013 study. Murray was struck by the conflicting data from international health agencies on global life expectancy, infant mortality, the incidence of chronic disease and more. The boy who had seen poverty firsthand in Africa became a man with a mission "to measure how we sicken and die in order to improve how we live." A fascinating account of a charismatic visionary who successfully battles the convoluted politics of international health bureaucracies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062237514
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/28/2017
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 213,402
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Customer Reviews