Utah Valley Global Health Group

A blog about global health for those living in Utah Valley and their friends.

Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Three Cups of Tea

Posted by benjamincrookston on March 30, 2008

I just finished this book (http://www.threecupsoftea.com/). It is a very interesting read and well worth the time!


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Book Review: “Mountains Beyond Mountains”

Posted by chads on January 24, 2008

It’s been over 3 years since I read Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains:  The Quest of Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.”  While I don’t remember details of the book, I do remember staying up late at night reading, unable to put the book down.  I remember being pushed into a corner, forced to face the realities of the global health situation.  I remember having no choice but to ask myself questions such as:  “Do that many people really suffer and die needlessly?” and “Can a small group of people really make a difference on such a large scale?”  and “Is health a human right?  Should it be a human right?”

Paul Farmer, it seems, is a “rock star” of global health.  I went to hear him speak in Chicago a few years ago, and, after waiting in line for an hour and a half, I left without shaking his hand.  While it could be argued that Dr. Farmer has received a disproportionate amount of credit (fame?) for his work, few would disagree that his story inspires, and that the work of him and other pioneers of health and human rights has changed the direction of global health forever.

Paul was raised in a bus and on a boat.  He went to medical school at Harvard, where he also earned a PhD in anthropology.  Much of his time, however, was spent in Haiti, not Boston, where he sought to bring medicines to people dying of AIDS, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases, people others had either given up on, or never thought of.  This, he would say, is a “morally clear” cause.  This book chronicles his journey from idealistic medical student to a respected leader who influences policy and the way we as a global society view global health.

The title is based on a Haitian proverb:  after one trial comes another, and workers in global health can attest to the truth of that statement.

I highly recommend this book.  It is both entertaining, and thought-provoking.

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Book Review: “Players and Issues in International Aid”

Posted by chads on January 17, 2008



 If you are as mind-boggled as I have been by the endless acronyms in international aid, then you may benefit from the book “Players and Issues in International Aid.”  Paula Hoy, the (current?) associate director of Interfaith Hunger Appeal, is effective in introducing the major organizations involved in humanitarian aid and global health.  She provides a needed historical summary to the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other multinational, international, national, and non-governmental organizations.  In so doing, she introduces issues such as aid equity, aid effectiveness, and gender.  I found the book useful and easy to read, though dry at times.  There is one major flaw:  the most recent edition (I think) was published in 1998.  Time for a new edition!

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Book Review: Bury the Chains

Posted by chads on January 5, 2008

“..it was time some person should see these calamities to their end.
    Thomas Clarkson, a recently ordained deacon in the Church of England, came to that conclusion in June, 1785, after writing a prize-winning essay: Anne liceat invitos in servitutem dare? – “Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?”
    Bury the Chains is an engaging, as well as harrowing, account of the movement to end the slave trade in eighteenth century England. The book reads like a well-written novel. A cast of unlikely characters joins to make history: Clarkston is determined and idealistic, ex-slave trader John Newton wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”, Olaudah Equiano wrote a best-selling autobiography detailing his life as a slave, Granville Sharp was an eccentric musician, William Wilberforce was the movement’s political voice, and the Quakers provided organization. Bury the Chains is a story of how a small group of people can, in fact, make a difference, a story of how people from different backgrounds can unite to to what is right, a story of human triumph.
    Clarkson’s words have haunted me. He did not, you see, learn of slavery and then simply feel the need to help. He determined that someone should end it. And they did.
    Bury the Chains is moving, inspiring account. I recommend it to anyone interested in social change. In my mind, the parallels with global health are all too obvious.

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Book Review: The End of Poverty

Posted by chads on October 25, 2007

I finally got around to reading Jeffery Sachs’ The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for our Time.

The mere title had been tantalizing me since I first heard of the book in 2005. Could it really be that we could end poverty? Is that really possible? It takes a visionary like Sachs to convince people like me, lulled in my comforts of 2007, that yes, of course it is possible. Not only is it possible, it is necessary.

I don’t know enough about economic theory to comment on Sachs’ proposals. I am convinced, however, that despite the potential shortcomings of the specifics of his plan, he is starting the conversation at the right spot: poverty can and should end in our generation.

Sachs is not talking about the “relatively poor in high-income countries” that “lack access to cultural goods, entertainment, recreation, and to quality health care, education…” He talks of ending “extreme poverty … the poorest of the poor.” They are “chronically hungry, unable to access health care, lack the amenities of safe drinking water and sanitation, cannot afford education for all or some of their children, and perhaps lack rudimentary shelter.” They are “trapped by disease, physical isolation, climate stress, enviornmental degradation, and by extreme poverty itself,” not even “on the development ladder.” This is “the greatest tragedy of our time.”

The chapters on Poland, Russia, and China were a bit dull, and his narrative struck me as a bit arrogant at times. Over-all, however, I would agree with The Economist: “Book and man are brilliant, passionate, optimistic, and impatient … Outstanding.”

Highly Recommended.

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Book Review: Millions Saved

Posted by chads on July 12, 2007

There are few books that I would recommend everyone interested in global health have on their bookshelves. “Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health” by Ruth Levine and the What Works Working Group is one such book.

You see, my experience in global health suggests that the main barrier to success in combating needless suffering and early death in developing countries lies not so much in identifying the need. It seems to me that most people recognize at least superficially the disparities in health globally. The main barrier lies in convincing funders that the cause is worth funding, and in reaching a consensus among those that implement global health programs. A first step in breaking those barriers is to identify prior successes and examine why they were successful. “Millions Saved” does just that.

Ruth Levine and her colleagues at the Center for Global Development have identified a series of 17 successful global health cases – interventions that have actually saved lives. From eradicating small pox world-wide to eliminating measles in Southern Africa, they give us a brief introduction to the scope of the problem, share how the intervention was implemented, and show how and why it was successful. They then share six common characteristics, lessons learned:

  1. Success is possible even in the poorest countries
  2. Governments in poor countries can do the job – and in some cases are the chief funders
  3. Technology, yes – but behavior change, too
  4. International coalitions have worked
  5. Attribution is possible
  6. Success comes in all shapes

The book is a short, easy read at about 150 pages. Each chapter explains a case, and both qualitative and quantitative aspects (with limitations) of the successes are discussed. There is currently a new edition out (I have not yet read it) which is being used in college courses.

“Millions Saved” answers critics, inspires idealists, and reminds those working in the often frustrating field of global health that a healthier world is, in fact, possible. I highly recommend this book.

Posted in Book Reviews, Evidence-based Global Health | 4 Comments »