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Getting What We Deserve

, 152 pages

2 halftones, 31 line drawings

October 2009



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Getting What We Deserve

Health and Medical Care in America

One of America's leading public health experts finds a host of ills in this country's health care system:

• The United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as the rest of the developed world, yet has higher infant mortality rates and shorter longevity than most nations.• We have access to many different drugs that accomplish the same end at varying costs, and nearly all are cheaper abroad.• Our life span had doubled over the past century before we developed effective drugs to treat most diseases or even considered altering the human genome.• The benefits of almost all newly developed treatments are marginal, while their costs are high.

In his blunt assessment of the state of public health in America, Alfred Sommer argues that human behavior has a stronger effect on wellness than almost any other factor.

Despite exciting advances in genomic research and cutting-edge medicine, Sommer explains, most illness can be avoided or managed with simple, low-tech habits such as proper hand washing, regular exercise, a balanced diet, and not smoking. But, as he also shows, this is easier said than done.

Sommer finds that our fascination with medical advances sometimes keeps us from taking responsibility for our individual well-being. Instead of focusing on prevention, we wait for medical science to cure us once we become sick.

Humorous, sometimes acerbic, and always well informed, Sommer’s thought-provoking book will change the way you look at health care in America.

Alfred Sommer, M.D., M.H.S., is the former dean and a professor of epidemiology and international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Sommer has written about and studied public health and illnesses for more than three decades. He is the winner of the 1997 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research.

"An ideal, nonalarmist first book on what needs reforming in American health care."

"Al Sommer, former Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a giant in the world of public health, has written a thought-provoking and insightful short course on the power of prevention. Indeed, the book is delightfully not just another treatise on universal access or the complexities of health insurance. Instead, it is a commonsense and concise case for the health benefits and cost savings that accrue from public health in all its breadth."

"In contrast to the confusing, politicized national conversation about health care, Sommer talks to the reader in a straightforward fashion."

"This volume is a timely, easy-to-read, practical treatise on health care reform."

"Alfred Sommer brings his vast global experience and applies his academic rigor and wit to look at contradictions inherent in the US health system, especially the disproportionate emphasis on expensive biomedical treatment of diseases over policy choices to invest in better social and economic environments that foster prevention and health promotion. This book is immensely timely, engaging and thought provoking—a must read."

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