Health is Politics on a Grand Scale | Fortune

  Photo by Ryan Bodenstein via Flicker

Photo by Ryan Bodenstein via Flicker

This piece is part of an ongoing series by Boston University’s Dr. Sandro Galea on the intricacies of health care and public health.

When I suggest that health is linked to politics, many readers will likely think about the political back-and-forth around Obamacare that gripped the country for a decade. And Obamacare—designed as it was to provide as many Americans as possible with access to health care—matters indeed. But, I would argue, it is one very small piece of a larger picture. And that picture is that health is inextricably linked to politics, on a large scale.

I borrow the term “on a large scale” from the German physician Rudolf Virchow. In 1848, the Prussian government named Virchow, then a young pathologist, to investigate a typhus epidemic in the region of Upper Silesia, which is now part of Poland. Virchow’s visit there would be brief—he stayed just three weeks—but what he observed during that time would have a lasting effect on our understanding of disease. Rather than write about what we typically imagine makes people sick—namely, bacteria and patterns of infection—Virchow wrote about the social and economic conditions he witnessed. His report told a tale of poverty, civil dysfunction, ignorance stemming from lack of educational opportunities, and other socioeconomic challenges.

Read full article at Fortune.