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Book Reviews and Other Media
August 2007

Awakening Hippocrates: A Primer on Health, Poverty, and Global Service

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(8):813-814. doi:10.1001/archpedi.161.8.813

Simply put, this ambitious book for health professionals aims to explain the current disparate state of health in the world and provide guidance as to how it might be made different. I couldn't have read a better primer on my flight halfway around the world for my new job in Africa.

The book is divided into 2 sections: the first aimed at understanding disparities in global health and the second providing short biographies of health professionals who have challenged the status quo. Its companion book, A Practical Guide to Global Health Service, profiles organizations that place health service volunteers. Part 1 of Awakening Hippocrates, “Understanding Global Disparities in Health,” explores poverty, both absolute and relative, and the effect it has on health. The reader is introduced to the idea of “structural violence”: that the poor of the world have shorter, harder, and “sicker” lives not as a result of chance or individual will but of human design in the form of choices made in allocation of resources. This is followed by a brief history of the meteoric rise in medical and public health advances in the industrialized, wealthy world that have resulted in a striking increase in life expectancy. O’Neil then frames the remainder of the book with the question: “How have some of these health gains spread to the developing world, while others have not?”