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Book and Media Reviews
October 22 2008

Low Income, Social Growth, and Good Health: A History of Twelve Countries

JAMA. 2008;300(16):1943-1950. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.518

In 1800, prior to gains in human survival around the globe, the average life expectancy at birth was 28.5 years. Now many countries can boast of life expectancies of 70 years and longer. Conventional wisdom has long held that these transitions occurred, first in Europe and subsequently in Canada, Australia, and the United States, as a direct result of industrialization and increasing material wealth. Yet from 1890 to 1960, 12 countries managed to make rapid and sustained gains in survival despite starting their own health transitions as low-income nations. Theirs is the story Indiana University historian James C. Riley explores in Low Income, Social Growth, and Good Health.