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Book Review: Dissecting American Health Care: Commentaries on Health Policy and Politics


My friend and former Chair of the CFAH Board of Trustees, Doug Kamerow, has written a book that I think you will like.

Besides being a mensch and witty as heck, Doug is a family doctor and a preventive medicine specialist.  In his new book, Dissecting American Health Care: Commentaries on Health Policy and Politics, these four characteristics constitute the lens through which he comments on scores of events, controversies and changes in public health and health policy that have taken place over the past four years. For example, Doug writes about last year's debate over the H1N1 vaccine, the papal position on condoms and HIV, how prevention fared in the health care reform act (ACA) and his attempt to sign his mom up for her Medicare Part D pharmacy plan.

These short essays originally appeared as commentaries on National Public Radio and editorials in the BMJ. Each one provides just enough background for an interested person to understand what the topic is and why it is important. Doug's stories about these topics build on his experience as a father, son, doctor, researcher, policy expert and communicator, weaving together historical precedent, current news and scientific findings as part of the narrative. By the end of each story, you understand how he reached his conclusion, even though you may not fully agree with it. You can identify the values that drive his approach to these often knotty issues: the importance of evidence, the recognition that all policy and health care practice is ultimately about people you know, and the importance of finding fair and just solutions for individuals and the public. Doug is no wide-eyed idealist, though.  He has been in the trenches as a government worker, a family doctor and an employee in the private sector. These essays reflect his experience of having his values constantly tested by the rough-and-tumble of economic and political events in all three settings.

Dissecting American Health Care is a wonderful book if you have a mild interest in health policy: it is informative, easy to read and will definitely leave you feeling a whole lot smarter about health care and public health than when you started. It is an important book for public health students, whether you are a physician or not: the essays illustrate how the imperatives of individual health care services and public health influence one another. And it is a fun read for those of us who spend our days working on some of these issues: as I re-read it yesterday, I had a number of lively imaginary conversations and quibbles with the author that prompted me to re-examine some of my own positions.

I invite you to take a look.  As Doug says in the opening essay, "Closely examining the nuts and bolts of how care is delivered is the first step to improving it."

More Blog Posts by Jessie Gruman

author bio

Jessie C. Gruman, PhD, was founder and president of the Center for Advancing Health from 1992 until her death in July 2014. Her experiences as a patient — having been diagnosed with five life-threatening illnesses — informed her perspective as an author, advocate and lead contributor to the Prepared Patient Blog. Her book, AfterShock, helps patients and caregivers navigate their way through the health care system following a serious or life-threatening diagnosis. The free app, AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis, offers a pocket guide based on the book. | More about Jessie Gruman

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