Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World Is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways

Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World Is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways

by Thomas J. Bollyky

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Overview

Why the news about the global decline of infectious diseases is not all good.

Plagues and parasites have played a central role in world affairs, shaping the evolution of the modern state, the growth of cities, and the disparate fortunes of national economies. This book tells that story, but it is not about the resurgence of pestilence. It is the story of its decline. For the first time in recorded history, virus, bacteria, and other infectious diseases are not the leading cause of death or disability in any region of the world. People are living longer, and fewer mothers are giving birth to many children in the hopes that some might survive. And yet, the news is not all good. Recent reductions in infectious disease have not been accompanied by the same improvements in income, job opportunities, and governance that occurred with these changes in wealthier countries decades ago. There have also been unintended consequences. In this book, Thomas Bollyky explores the paradox in our fight against infectious disease: the world is getting healthier in ways that should make us worry.

Bollyky interweaves a grand historical narrative about the rise and fall of plagues in human societies with contemporary case studies of the consequences. Bollyky visits Dhaka—one of the most densely populated places on the planet—to show how low-cost health tools helped enable the phenomenon of poor world megacities. He visits China and Kenya to illustrate how dramatic declines in plagues have affected national economies. Bollyky traces the role of infectious disease in the migrations from Ireland before the potato famine and to Europe from Africa and elsewhere today.

Historic health achievements are remaking a world that is both worrisome and full of opportunities. Whether the peril or promise of that progress prevails, Bollyky explains, depends on what we do next.

A Council on Foreign Relations Book

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262348089
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Series: The MIT Press
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 632,705
File size: 45 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Thomas J. Bollyky is the Director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Introduction 1

The Age-Old Balance between Host and Parasite 3

Determinants of History, Agents of Human Tragedy 5

The Different Paths to Progress 7

Why Worry in the Age of Miracles? 9

A Worrisome Future Is Not inevitable 9

1 How the World Starts Getting Better 13

Death, Disease, and the Fall of Prehistoric Man 16

The Path to Better Health in Wealthier Nations 28

A Better World Begins as a More Unequal One 34

2 Diseases of Conquest and Colony 39

The Colonial and Military Roots of Global Health 45

The Path to Better Health in Poorer Nations 61

Death and Demography 66

The Legacy of Ebola 73

The Difference That Health Aid Makes 78

3 Diseases of Childhood 83

A Child Survival Revolution 85

China's Other Great Leap Forward 89

Is Healthier Wealthier? 92

The (Potential) Dividends of Demography 93

Sunny in Nairobi, with a Chance of Storms 97

Cell Phones, Not Factories 100

The Perils of Youth 104

4 Diseases of Settlement 107

Cholera and the White Death 109

A Simple Solution 120

Poor World Cities 125

The Perils of Crowing Naturally 130

Climate and the Environment 136

The Tunis Effect 138

Returning to Dhaka 140

5 Diseases of Place 143

The Growth Industry in Agadez, Niger 146

People, Not Just Potatoes 150

Migration as the History of Disease 152

The World Is Getting Better in Worrisome Ways 158

6 The Exoneration of William H. Stewart 163

Confronting the Complex of Multiple Causation 169

The Role of Aid in Adapting to the Decline of Infectious Diseases 171

The Myth of the Good Epidemic 176

Acknowledgments 179

Notes 181

Index 243

What People are Saying About This

Endorsement

Plagues and the Paradox of Progressis a readable history of the rise and fall—and worrisome threat—of infectious diseases, as well as the new health threat to developing countries: chronic illnesses.Bollyky provides deep insight into how health challenges will impact the development of lower income countries. This is an excellent addition to the scholarship on global health.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Prescription for the Future

From the Publisher

Noncommunicable diseases are an urgent global crisis that has been largely overlooked, with deadly consequences. By calling attention to it—and prescribing solutions—Bollyky's book can help to save many lives.

Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, World Health Organization Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases, and three-term mayor of New York City

A remarkable piece of work, superbly researched, beautifully written, and sobering. It should be required reading not only for policymakers and philanthropists, but anyone seeking to understand the great progress that has been made in global health and the significant challenges that remain.

Sania Nishtar, Founder and President of Heartfile and former Federal Minister for Pakistan

This stimulating new book is a must-read for those who care about our collective future. A well-recognized leader in global health, Tom Bollyky is a powerful advocate at a critical time, but does not shy away from some unsettling truths. Interweaving history, science, economic/development policy and international affairs, he reveals the promise and peril of how health advances are reshaping our world, and he soundly argues that a safer, healthier world demands that we address this paradox of unintended consequences. We should take heed!

Margaret A. Hamburg, Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Medicine and Former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration

Plagues and the Paradox of Progress is a readable history of the rise and fall—and worrisome threat—of infectious diseases, as well as the new health threat to developing countries: chronic illnesses. Bollyky provides deep insight into how health challenges will impact the development of lower income countries. This is an excellent addition to the scholarship on global health.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, Chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Prescription for the Future

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