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Well in the World:
The Soundtrack of Well
An epidemiologist reframes the American health care crisis.
Born in Malta and raised in Canada, Galea (Dean, Boston Univ. School of Public Health; Healthier: Fifty Thoughts on the Foundations of Population Health, 2017, etc.) has traveled the world treating patients in remote areas, experiences that shaped his impressions of what truly influences health and health care, two aspects of medicine that are often conflated. He underscores global statistical trends revealing that despite leading investments in health prevention, Americans still fall short on worldwide illness ratios. Galea faults a society that “is simply not oriented to keep[ing] us healthy” and seeks to gain a better understanding of how to achieve ultimate vitality and longevity. He offers a reassessment of the many elements of sustainable health and wellness, examining a wide variety of external, interconnected forces. While acknowledging that some influences—e.g., intergenerational factors and certain environmental conditions—are unavoidable, he intensively addresses the building blocks of sustainable health while putting allegories and pop-culture references to effective use. These key pieces include creating solid financial foundations, including the use of redistributive economic programs; resisting corruption in high-level political and corporate arenas; encouraging the establishment of tightknit community networks; cultivating emotional well-being; advocating for knowledgeable personal choices that resist negative influences from social media networks, advertising, and “social contagion.” Galea believes that all of these forces collectively affect the healthfulness of Americans and that each plays a role in fostering an important brand of preventative medicine that can be cultivated at home. He implores readers to take the steps to change their minds and bodies now rather than relying on medicine or chronically seeing doctors after we are already ill. While some areas of the author’s research may seem like wishful thinking in today’s world of greed, violence, and class inequities, his hopes for a healthier populace make for a compassionate, relevant book.
Sharp, optimistic, and factually supported encouragement to boost societal attitudes about the power of salubrity.
US citizens top world spending on health, yet have shorter ‘healthspans’ than people in other rich countries. Why? Cogently and often movingly, epidemiologist Sandro Galea argues that an obsession with drugs, doctors and insurance obscures the fact that the roots of sickness and health are life circumstances: money, status, education, environment and a range of other socio-economic issues. With the richest 1% living for up to 15 years longer than the poorest 1%, investment in public goods such as education, universal health coverage and environmental regulation is ever more urgent.