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The State, Society, and Public Health in the United States, France, Great Britain, and Canada
From mad-cow disease and E. coli-tainted spinach in the food supply to anthrax scares and fears of a bird flu pandemic, national health threats are a perennial fact of American life. Yet not all crises receive the level of attention they seem to merit. The marked contrast between the U.S. government’s rapid response to the anthrax outbreak of 2001 and years of federal inaction on the spread of AIDS among gay men and intravenous drug users underscores the influence of politics and public attitudes in shaping the nation’s response to health threats. In Disease Prevention as Social Change, sociologist Constance Nathanson argues that public health is inherently political, and explores the social struggles behind public health interventions by the governments of four industrialized democracies. Nathanson shows how public health policies emerge out of battles over power and ideology, in which social reformers clash with powerful interests, from dairy farmers to tobacco lobbyists to the Catholic Church. Comparing the history of four public health dilemmas—tuberculosis and infant mortality at the turn of the last century, and more recently smoking and AIDS—in the United States, France, Britain, and Canada, Nathanson examines the cultural and institutional factors that shaped reform movements and led each government to respond differently to the same health challenges. She finds that concentrated political power is no guarantee of government intervention in the public health domain. France, an archetypical strong state, has consistently been decades behind other industrialized countries in implementing public health measures, in part because political centralization has afforded little opportunity for the development of grassroots health reform movements. In contrast, less government centralization in America has led to unusually active citizen-based social movements that campaigned effectively to reduce infant mortality and restrict smoking. Public perceptions of health risks are also shaped by politics, not just science. Infant mortality crusades took off in the late nineteenth century not because of any sudden rise in infant mortality rates, but because of elite anxieties about the quantity and quality of working-class populations. Disease Prevention as Social Change also documents how culture and hierarchies of race, class, and gender have affected governmental action—and inaction—against particular diseases. Informed by extensive historical research and contemporary fieldwork, Disease Prevention as Social Change weaves compelling narratives of the political and social movements behind modern public health policies. By comparing the vastly different outcomes of these movements in different historical and cultural contexts, this path-breaking book advances our knowledge of the conditions in which social activists can succeed in battles over public health.
The Politics of African American Medical Care
For enslaved and newly freed African Americans, attaining freedom and citizenship without health for themselves and their families would have been an empty victory. Even before emancipation, African Americans recognized that control of their bodies was a critical battleground in their struggle for autonomy, and they devised strategies to retain at least some of that control. In Doctoring Freedom, Gretchen Long tells the stories of African Americans who fought for access to both medical care and medical education, showing the important relationship between medical practice and political identity.
Osteopathic Medicine in America
Overcoming suspicion, ridicule, and outright opposition from the American Medical Association, the osteopathic medical profession today serves the health needs of more than thirty million Americans. The DOs chronicles the development of this controversial medical movement from the nineteenth century to the present. Historian Norman Gevitz describes the philosophy and practice of osteopathy, as well as its impact on medical care. From the theories underlying the use of spinal manipulation developed by osteopathy's founder, Andrew Taylor Still, Gevitz traces the movement's early success, despite attacks from the orthodox medical community, and details the internal struggles to broaden osteopathy's scope to include the full range of pharmaceuticals and surgery. He also recounts the efforts of osteopathic colleges to achieve parity with institutions granting M.D. degrees and looks at the continuing effort by osteopathic physicians and surgeons to achieve greater recognition and visibility. In print continuously since 1982, The DOs has now been thoroughly updated and expanded to include two new chapters addressing recent and current challenges and to bring the history of the profession up to the beginning of the new millennium.
Marijuana as Medicine
Alternet excerpt of the book ("How Pot Became Demonized")
Marijuana as medicine has been a politically charged topic in this country for more than three decades. Despite overwhelming public support and growing scientific evidence of its therapeutic effects (relief of the nausea caused by chemotherapy for cancer and AIDS, control over seizures or spasticity caused by epilepsy or MS, and relief from chronic and acute pain, to name a few), the drug remains illegal under federal law.
In Dying to Get High, noted sociologist Wendy Chapkis and Richard J. Webb investigate one community of seriously-ill patients fighting the federal government for the right to use physician-recommended marijuana. Based in Santa Cruz, California, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is a unique patient-caregiver cooperative providing marijuana free of charge to mostly terminally ill members. For a brief period in 2004, it even operated the only legal non-governmental medical marijuana garden in the country, protected by the federal courts against the DEA.
Using as their stage this fascinating profile of one remarkable organization, Chapkis and Webb tackle the broader, complex history of medical marijuana in America. Through compelling interviews with patients, public officials, law enforcement officers and physicians, Chapkis and Webb ask what distinguishes a legitimate patient from an illegitimate pothead, good drugs from bad, medicinal effects from just getting high. Dying to Get High combines abstract argument and the messier terrain of how people actually live, suffer and die, and offers a moving account of what is at stake in ongoing debates over the legalization of medical marijuana.
The Politics of Public Health in New York
The first permanent Board of Health in the United States was created in response to a cholera outbreak in New York City in 1866. By the mid-twentieth century, thanks to landmark achievements in vaccinations, medical data collection, and community health, the NYC Department of Health had become the nation’s gold standard for public health. However, as the city’s population grew in number and diversity, the department struggled to balance its efforts between the treatment of diseases—such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and West Nile Virus—and the prevention of illness-causing factors like lead paint, heroin addiction, homelessness, smoking, and unhealthy foods. In Epidemic City, historian of public health James Colgrove chronicles the challenges faced by the health department since New York City’s mid-twentieth-century “peak” in public health provision. This insightful volume draws on archival research and oral histories to examine how the provision of public health has adapted to the competing demands of diverse public needs, public perceptions, and political pressure. Epidemic City analyzes the perspectives and efforts of the people responsible for the city’s public health from the 1960s to the present—a time that brought new challenges, such as budget and staffing shortages, and new threats like bioterrorism. Faced with controversies such as needle exchange programs and AIDS reporting, the health department struggled to maintain a delicate balance between its primary focus on illness prevention and the need to ensure public and political support for its activities. In the past decade, after the 9/11 attacks and bioterrorism scares partially diverted public health efforts from illness prevention to threat response, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden were still able to pass New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act restricting smoking and significant regulations on trans-fats used by restaurants. This legislation—preventative in nature much like the department’s original sanitary code—reflects a return to the nineteenth century roots of public health, when public health measures were often overtly paternalistic. The assertive laws conceived by Frieden and executed by Bloomberg demonstrate how far the mandate of public health can extend when backed by committed government officials. Epidemic City provides a compelling historical analysis of the individuals and groups tasked with negotiating the fine line between public health and political considerations. By examining the department’s successes and failures during the ambitious social programs of the 1960s, the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, the struggles with poverty and homelessness in the 1980s and 1990s, and in the post-9/11 era, Epidemic City shows how the NYC Department of Health has defined the role and scope of public health services for the entire nation.
A History of Hormone Replacement Therapy in America
In the first complete history of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), Elizabeth Siegel Watkins illuminates the complex and changing relationship between the medical treatment of menopause and cultural conceptions of aging. Describing the development, spread, and shifting role of HRT in America from the early twentieth century to the present, Watkins explores how the interplay between science and society shaped the dissemination and reception of HRT and how the medicalization—and subsequent efforts toward the demedicalization—of menopause and aging affected the role of estrogen as a medical therapy. Telling the story from multiple perspectives—physicians, pharmaceutical manufacturers, government regulators, feminist health activists, and the media, as well as women as patients and consumers—she reveals the striking parallels between estrogen’s history as a medical therapy and broad shifts in the role of medicine in an aging society. Today, information about HRT is almost always accompanied by a laundry list of health risks. While physicians and pharmaceutical companies have striven to develop the safest possible treatment for the symptoms of menopause and aging, many specialists question whether HRT should be prescribed at all. Drawing from a wide range of scholarly research, archival records, and interviews, The Estrogen Elixir provides valuable historical context for one of the most pressing debates in contemporary medicine. Praise for Watkins' On the Pill: "An exemplary study of how the nation which first had access to oral contraceptives first came to terms with their advantages, and their drawbacks."—Times Literary Supplement "Intelligent and well-structured . . . An admirable exercise in social history."—Nature "A particularly fascinating issue, trim and focused, sophisticated and helpful, fresh and very interesting."—American Historical Review "In every carefully organized, lucidly written chapter Watkins provides surprising corrections to conventional thinking about the new birth control method."—Journal of American History "Anyone concerned with the debate over scientific advance and medical authority will find this a highly stimulating study."—Journal of American Studies
Lovesickness in the Russian Literary Imagination
The destructive power of obsessive love was a defining subject of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Russian literature. In Febris Erotica, Sobol argues that Russian writers were deeply preoccupied with the nature of romantic relationships and were persistent in their use of lovesickness not simply as a traditional theme but as a way to address pressing philosophical, ethical, and ideological concerns through a recognizable literary trope. Sobol examines stereotypes about the damaging effects of romantic love and offers a short history of the topos of lovesickness in Western literature and medicine.
John Rock and the Reproductive Revolution
As Louise Brown—the first baby conceived by in vitro fertilization—celebrates her 30th birthday, Margaret Marsh and Wanda Ronner tell the fascinating story of the man who first showed that human in vitro fertilization was possible. John Rock spent his career studying human reproduction. The first researcher to fertilize a human egg in vitro in the 1940s, he became the nation’s leading figure in the treatment of infertility, his clinic serving rich and poor alike. In the 1950s he joined forces with Gregory Pincus to develop oral contraceptives and in the 1960s enjoyed international celebrity for his promotion of the pill and his campaign to persuade the Catholic Church to accept it. Rock became a more controversial figure by the 1970s, as conservative Christians argued that his embryo studies were immoral and feminist activists contended that he had taken advantage of the clinic patients who had participated in these studies as research subjects. Marsh and Ronner’s nuanced account sheds light on the man behind the brilliant career. They tell the story of a directionless young man, a saloon keeper’s son, who began his working life as a timekeeper on a Guatemalan banana plantation and later became one of the most recognized figures of the twentieth century. They portray his medical practice from the perspective of his patients, who ranged from the wives of laborers to Hollywood film stars. The first scholars to have access to Rock’s personal papers, Marsh and Ronner offer a compelling look at a man whose work defined the reproductive revolution, with its dual developments in contraception and technologically assisted conception.
Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in America, 1950-1980
Fit to Be Tied provides a history of sterilization and what would become, at once, socially divisive and a popular form of birth control. Utilizing first-person narratives, court cases, and official records, Rebecca M. Kluchin examines the evolution of forced sterilization of poor women, especially women of color, in the second half of the century and contrasts it with demands for contraceptive sterilization made by white women and men. She chronicles public acceptance during an era of reproductive and sexual freedom, the shift away from sterilization and how it influenced many aspects of American life.