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

MIT. Sept. 2018. 272p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780262038454. $27.95. HEALTH
OrangeReviewStarClassics such as William McNeill's Plagues and Peoples and Hans Zinsser's Rats, Lice, and History discuss the role of epidemics and infectious disease in world history. Here, Bollyky (director, Global Health Program, Council on Foreign Relations) steps back and takes a more detailed look at the big picture. The author notes that, even in third-world countries, the mortality rate for infectious diseases has dropped dramatically and the quality of life has not improved—in fact, it may even be worse. Vaccines and antibiotics have lowered the death rate among children, but weak governments have been unable to create strong economies and jobs, adequate educational programs, and sound infrastructures to support the increase in population. Furthermore, nonprofits and foreign aid programs often don't consider local needs and cultures when providing assistance. Bollyky says the situation is worrisome but presents opportunities for improving the world as well.
VERDICT A thought-provoking book that should be required reading for anyone working in public health or public policy arenas.

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