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The Health of Nations: The Campaign to End…

The Health of Nations: The Campaign to End Polio and Eradicate Epidemic…

by Karen Bartlett

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Excellent history of the vaccine and eradication campaigns of three devastating diseases -- smallpox, polio, and malaria. Impeccably researched yet written in an accessible format for the lay reader. While is primarily a history of disease, the ending chapters discuss current efforts to eradicate diseases like polio and guinea worm disease, and talk about current anti-vaccination efforts and their results. Recommended. ( )
  sparemethecensor | May 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I was under the impression this book would be about how our world will be affected by eliminating contagious disease. Instead, it was a history on several vaccine campaigns. It was interesting but not what I expected. However, I did learn quite a bit about the drama and in-fighting that still goes on to this day regarding vaccines - how they are produced, where they are distributed, etc.

Makes me thankful I was born in a time when vaccines could prevent so much suffering. ( )
  beachmama43 | Apr 28, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A well put together analysis of the current healthcare industry and the ways we can move forward to further learn about communicable diseases and keep a healthy populace. ( )
  TravisWilson | Apr 3, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Smallpox, Polio, and Zika – Oh My! Scary well known diseases, NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases), and the efforts to eradicate them are the subject of this nonfiction work. This is an easy nontechnical read, and should be accessible to people not schooled in public health or medicine. It even reads like a modern thriller at times – will they or won’t they be successful with latest techniques.

I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on television, but I have worked in international development. I was struck by how the history of public health – top-down, single-disease programs, mandated by international bodies, imposed on whole countries, ignoring the wishes of the local people, yielding poor outcomes – were so similar to the history of international development. I wish there was more discussion on quote my Michael Galloway and polio eradication, “The programme is really an exercise is anthropology and ethnography.” (p120). This was the missing component in so many of these programs in my opinion.

Recommended to anyone wanting to get their feet wet understanding current public health programs to fight diseases on a global scale. ( )
2 vote BookWallah | Mar 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Bartlett begins with the familiar story of Edward Jenner and the eventual defeat of smallpox. Variolation involved infecting the patient with a mild form of the human smallpox virus but carried the possibility of causing the more severe form of the disease or exposing others to the disease. Vaccination used the similar cowpox and could not trigger the virulent disease. Jenner's discovery that cowpox protected against smallpox was more a matter of publicizing the procedure which others had already noticed. There were also the first anti-vaxxers who opposed the vaccine due to their fears that children would be born with bovine traits or bulls would sexually harass ladies. This was before DNA was known so perhaps their worries about human-animal crossing are somewhat understandable. Smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979.

The major part of the book deals with the fight against polio and begins with a picture of a children's ward with the dreaded iron lung. The first polio epidemic in America occurred just over a hundred years ago, in 1894. A number of researchers developed various vaccines but they often did not provide protection and some even caused the disease instead of preventing it. Jonas Salk thought that an injected killed virus was the correct solution. Albert Sabin chose to use an attenuated (weakened) virus given orally. Bill Gates and his foundation are given credit for much of the progress in universal vaccination against this crippling disease.

Yellow fever and malaria are briefly mentioned as well as Guinea worm disease, a parasitic infection which President Carter has worked so hard to eliminate. Bartlett tends to gloss over the benefits of nutrition, clean water and sanitation in the struggle against disease while focusing on vaccination programs. War, religious beliefs and difficulty in reaching locales often obstruct progress against total annihilation of diseases.

The optimistic subtitle "Towards a World Without Contagious Disease" is misleading. We have eradicated only one disease in a couple centuries while AIDS, Ebola and Zika have emerged in just the last few decades. It is unlikely that more diseases won't appear in the future. Highly contagious diseases such as influenza and the common cold aren't mentioned at all, nor are sexually transmitted diseases. There's nothing here to indicate that we are controlling diseases any better than in the past.

Bartlett's writing is accessible but I was confused by this sentence: "Despite decades of prevarication, Jenner's discovery was an immense step." Did she really mean decades of lying? A later reference to the "introduction of activated polio vaccine" is also puzzling. I hope that these are typos which will be corrected in the final publication. Some quotations are within the text but many, for no discernible reason, are indented block quotes, sometimes two to a page. Most of the end notes consist of "Author interview with [name]" which makes further investigation difficult, if not impossible. An index would be welcome. ( )
  Taphophile13 | Mar 23, 2017 |
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A world free of epidemic diseases might seem a utopian pipe-dream, but that brand new world is a lot closer than you might think. Bartlett give us a rare inside look at how both global organizations and local campaigns operate on the front lines in the war against contagious disease. She reveals how victory in this battle will have profound consequences for the balance of world power and will embolden scientists to make other, even more momentous breakthroughs.… (more)

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