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Books, Journals, New Media
April 16, 2003

Health Systems

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(15):1999. doi:10.1001/jama.289.15.1999

After reading The Health of Nations: Why Inequality Is Harmful to Your Health, you will hold these truths to be self-evident: more than two centuries after the Declaration of Independence was penned, social, economic, and political inequalities are (still) impeding "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" from being inalienable rights.

In this empirically rich yet widely accessible volume, Harvard School of Public Health professors Ichiro Kawachi and Bruce Kennedy build a convincing case for why prosperous nations in which there are high levels of inequality, most notably the United States, experience worse overall health than do countries that are more egalitarian, such as Costa Rica, regardless of their level of wealth. The authors bring together several decades of research and lively debate in the fields of sociology, economics, and public health with clear illustrations of how the continued existence of social inequalities imperils basic values of progress and well-being.