Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health

Laurie Garrett, Author
Laurie Garrett, Author Hyperion Books $30 (624p) ISBN 978-0-7868-6522-2
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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On a par with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, this chilling exploration of the decline of public health should be taken seriously by leaders and policymakers around the world. Garrett, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for Newsday (The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance), has written an accessible and prodigiously researched analysis of disaster in the making in a world with no functioning public health infrastructure. In India in 1994, neglect of public health for the poor led to an outbreak of pneumonic plague; the once-dreaded disease is now easily treatable with antibiotics, but the failure of Indian authorities to quickly reach a diagnosis and provide accurate information resulted in a worldwide panic. The former Soviet Union, for all its flaws, according to Garrett, assured every citizen access to health care. After the U.S.S.R.'s breakup, the Russian economy collapsed. With no funding left for health care, Russia was overwhelmed by a tuberculosis epidemic. Even the U.S., historically a pioneer in public health (this commitment was demonstrated by New York City's quick and successful response to an 1888 cholera epidemic, as well as the tenement reform movement of the early 1900s that helped eliminate diphtheria), is lagging today. During the Reagan administration, Garrett says, budget cuts dramatically weakened public health while also denying poor Americans access to medical care. The author believes that the medical challenges posed by the epidemic spread of AIDS in Africa, by drug-resistant microbes carried from one country to another and by the danger of biological warfare can be met only by a cooperative global movement dedicated to strengthening public health infrastructures. Garrett sounds the alarm with an articulate and carefully reasoned account. Author tour; NBC Today appearance. (Aug.)
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