2021 Outstanding Academic Titles: Health Science

Five selections from the Choice Reviews 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles about health science.

Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title Breathing: an inspired history
1. Breathing: an inspired history
Williams, Edgar Mark. Reaktion Books, 2021

In this sparkling odyssey through the medical and cultural aspects of breathing, pulmonary scientist Williams (Univ. of South Wales) touches on the evolution of animal and human respiration, the mystical “pneuma” of ancient civilizations, revolutionary insights into pulmonary physiology, and the centuries-long quest for effective diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic solutions to “breathlessness.” Breathing is about gases: good gas (oxygen—but not too much of it), bad gases (carbon monoxide and coal gas), displaced gas (nitrogen), and evil gases (mustard and nerve gases). But it is also about the path from a newborn’s cry to a dying man’s last breath. Along the way, readers meet vague miasmas, industrial pollution, the ravages of “consumption” (tuberculosis), pandemic influenza, the gospel of fresh air, iron lungs (poliomyelitis), the great London smog of 1952, the deadly toll of tobacco, and, on a lighter note, the evils of (Victorian) corseting practice. Williams elucidates the dangers of breathing at high altitude (on mountaintops, in outer space) and in the depths (mines, oceans), and the psychological and medical applications of patterned breathing. A final chapter is devoted to breathing imagery and metaphor in film, literature, and everyday speech. View on Amazon

2. Challenges to tackling antimicrobial resistance: economic and policy responses
ed. by Michael Anderson, Michele Cecchini, and Elias Mossialos Cambridge, 2020
Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title Challenges to tackling antimicrobial resistance: economic and policy responses

Global health experts anticipate that coming epidemics will have two major causes: the formation of virulent, recombinant strains of pathogenic microbes and an accelerating rise in the number and scope of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) pathogens. The occurrence of the first event increases the likelihood of the second. Even without emergent novel pathogens, however, AMR pathogens will expand, adding substantially to a population’s burden of disease (measured in terms of DALYs: disability-adjusted life years) and increasing its health care costs. This volume focuses on the European Union and high-income countries, but the contributors’ economic and policy insights are globally applicable. Controlling the growth of AMR pathogens requires effective monitoring of antibiotic usage. By itself, controlling usage is challenging; achieving it is necessary but not sufficient. The eight articles brought together here widen the examination of AMR to include the role of civil society and the burden of political responsibility, the application of cost-effective vaccines against resistant bacterial strains, and the use of antibiotics in agriculture and food production. View on Amazon

3. Human-canine collaboration in care: doing diabetes
Eason, Fenella. Routledge, 2020
Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title Human-canine collaboration in care: doing diabetes

The usual care for type 1 diabetes, as for other chronic diseases, is a combination of medications (in this case, predominantly insulin) and lifestyle modifications. The standard method for the detection of hypoglycemia is the glucometer, which chemically detects the level of glucose in the blood. In this work, creating an ecofeminist ethnology of care, Eason undertakes a fascinating examination of the relationship between dogs and humans with type 1 diabetes, particularly the role of service dogs assisting in the care of persons with this disease through their natural ability to detect hypoglycemia. Posing the question of whether using dogs in biotherapy is justifiable or merely exploitative, Eason moves to a synthesis of the human-canine care relationship as one of mutual caring and responsibilities. Eason successfully deploys both social science theory and biology/pathophysiology to develop a construct of the human-canine relationship in the care of diabetes as one of “companionship, friendship, love … and even community” and an alternative to more invasive treatments. View on Amazon

4. No more to spend: neglect and the construction of scarcity in Malawi’s history of health care
Messac, Luke. Oxford, 2020
Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title No more to spend: neglect and the construction of scarcity in Malawi's history of health care

In this study of health disparities, the focus is on Malawi in southeastern Africa. Messac (Brown Univ.) exposes, through historical context and its contemporary reflections, the depth and extent of colonial and postcolonial strategies employed to deprive poor people of equal access to health care services. Employing an array of sociological fieldwork methods, he sheds light on the origins of colonial influences that found excuses for maintaining existing inequity in health services provided to Africans. Although a case study of Malawi, the text highlights universal roots of withholding quality health care from the world’s poor. Messac’s introductory chapter (“The Construction of Scarcity”) graphically sums up his argument. This text is important for anyone interested in how powerful groups legitimize social deprivation that results in poor health among the world’s impoverished by implementing inane and unhelpful solutions. Messac’s study will no doubt shame the former British colonial regime, but, more important, it should arm those currently in power to break the cycle of lame excuses and spur them to provide decent health services for the people of Malawi—and wherever European colonial regimes engaged unfairly with African peoples. View on Amazon.

5. Organs for sale: bioethics, neoliberalism, and public moral deliberation
Gillespie, Ryan. Toronto, 2021
Choice 2021 Outstanding Academic Title Organs for sale: bioethics, neoliberalism, and public moral deliberation

Gillespie (Center for the Study of Religion, Univ. of California, Los Angeles) has written a well-informed, very clear analysis of the competing models for transplant organ procurement and distribution. The book is much more than this, however: the question of a market for organs is one of the best examples of the extension of concepts from neoliberalism into almost every aspect of contemporary moral life, and Gillespie explores this extension. Public moral deliberation, where it survives, increasingly turns to economic value as the deciding factor. As Gillespie points out, the dominance of individual liberty as expressed through market privatization can help us understand what we value in general and thus what sort of society we are or want to be. As he puts it, the fact “that the market has become the organ that filters value in the body politic is of unprecedented historical implication.” And he takes a clear stand in this debate, asserting that “… the (at)traction of buying and selling human organs is a symptom of the body politic being sick.” View on Amazon.

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