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Global health: an introduction to current and future trends

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Title: Global health: an introduction to current and future trends.

Author: Kevin McCracken and David R Phillips

Publisher: Routledge

Reviewer: Alison Taylor, paediatric practice development nurse, Western Sussex Hospitals Trust

What was it like?

This is a comprehensive and highly detailed text covering every imaginable facet of global health, from epidemiological concepts, data and measurements to the sociopolitical and ecological influences on people’s health around the world. As its title suggests, the book’s focus is contemporary although the authors also neatly summarise historical global patterns of disease and health transitions to date.

The book takes a logical approach to a huge topic. Split into three parts, the first gives a basic introduction to fundamental concepts, definitions of key terms and major determinants of population health and disease such as mortality and morbidity data. A section on health transitions follows, explaining how the health and disease profiles of the world’s nations have developed over time. National and sub-national inequalities are scrutinised, as are the complex interrelationships between various dimensions of social and health status, such as age, gender, occupation, education and income.

The third part, deals with present and future. The subject of health systems is explored; how these are planned, financed and reorganised, using specific national examples. Significant attention is also paid to the impact of environmental and climate change on the world’s health; the broader themes of international aid and political security are also well explored.

What were the highlights? 

Data from the World Health Organisation and other global authorities and official statistical sources are interwoven throughout the text in countless tables, boxes and diagrams. These illustrate clearly the points being made, and along with a good glossary and a number of searching questions posed as discussion points after each chapter, make digesting the many complex topics more enjoyable.

Strengths & weaknesses:

As a newcomer to the study of global heath I found the statistical details heavy going at times and therefore hard to retain. Overall though, this is a highly readable book written in an intelligent and thought provoking style.The last chapter on the future of global health is somewhat bleak. The prolonged speculation on a future of uncontrolled infection, a generation of Alzheimer’s sufferers and a world punctuated by more natural disasters, accelerating urban growth and political instability does not make for a happy ending.

I don’t think I would have found this book accessible as a student nurse for example, due to the complexity of the subject matter. However, for experienced health professionals I think it is essential reading to gain a well rounded understanding of the health of human populations around the world and it has already provided me with a good grounding in the subject. As the authors say, global health is important to everyone, everywhere.

Who should read it?

The book is broadly aimed at students of global health, public health and development studies. However anyone with an interest in international health, politics, sociology or health economics would gain much from reading it.

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