Daily Archives: May 11, 2010

Great Books In Health Policy 2

Today I’m back with more of my recommendations for great health policy books. This week, I have three suggestions–two written by physicians and one written by one of the best health care journalists in the country. First up is Jonathan Cohn’s book Sick, which provides a readily accessible overview of the U.S. health care system and the myriad problems plaguing it. The book is written as a series of case studies and it is incredibly personal. You really get the feel for what it’s like to fall through the gaps in our system. Fortunately, health reform goes a long way in filling those gaps, but it won’t get to them all. If you’ve ever thought–like so many do–“I have a job and health insurance, why should I support reform?” then you need to read this book. Sick gets a 1 on the Wonk Scale. I wouldn’t quite call it beach reading, but it is incredibly entertaining.

Next is another relatively easy read: How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman. I don’t want to give too much of the book away, so I’ll just say a few things about how doctors think according to Groopman. First, they don’t think like you might think they do. Second, they are typically trained to think that way. Third, the way they think doesn’t always work well from the patient’s perspective (translation: it might kill you). This one’s not so much a “policy” book as it is entertainment with a clinical focus, but that doesn’t mean it has no policy relevance. Insofar as certain health policies aim to influence physician behavior, it is vital to understand how physicians think. But as this is an engaging book that could also help you have a better doctor-patient relationship, I’m giving it a 1 on the Wonk Scale as well.

Finally, I have to recommend Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power Farmer, like Groopman, is a faculty member at Harvard, but his focus is much more international. In Pathologies, Farmer looks at the intersection of health, human rights, and what he calls the “new war” on the poor. The book is fascinating if you’re really into understanding health and poverty and/or international health, but it’s a tough read. It took me about a month to wade through, but that’s just because it’s so full of information and I didn’t want to miss anything by skimming. Farmer looks most closely at drug-resistant tuberculosis in Russian prisons and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Haiti among other topics. But, again, this is not a book for the faint of heart and gets a 4 on the Wonk Scale. Ironically, most people who would dare to read this book have probably already read it, but in case you missed it, here’s your reminder.

Alright, that’s all for now. As an aside, I’ll be traveling Wednesday through Friday of this week, so I may not blog quite as frequently as usual. Still, check back daily, because you never know.

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Posted by on May 11, 2010 in Good Reading

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