In this collection of essays, a former assistant surgeon general examines virtually every major issue in contemporary health care and U.S. public health policy.
Kamerow (Clinical Family Medicine/Georgetown University) draws on his experience as a family doctor and preventive health specialist for 20 years with the U.S. Public Health Service to address research funding, regulation, screening and immunization, health care delivery, system reform and medical ethics. The book consists of 37 columns that appeared in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) and 10 three-minute radio commentaries for National Public Radio from early 2007 to mid-2011. Each is short and of nearly equal length, risking a mechanical pace. Kamerow softens this effect and achieves some flow from essay to essay by organizing them thematically. Topics run the gamut from grim—keeping semiautomatic weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill—to lighthearted—debunking holiday medical myths. A few added footnotes explain jargon suitable for his original BMJ audience, but the book would have benefited from more. Dissecting sometimes means skewering, as evident in such titles as “How to Waste a Billion Dollars,” “Our Perfectly Designed Health Care System” and “Killing Me Softly” (about the role of doctors in executions). A self-described “bleeding heart liberal,” Kamerow offers a clear point of view without abandoning fairness or engaging in petty partisan sniping. His allegiance to scientific evidence and better health outcomes prompts sharp critiques of presidents Bush and Obama, as well as Pope Benedict XVI. Columnists strive to be topical, so repackaging their work in book form is fraught with risk for timeliness and relevance. This volume succeeds on the strength of Kamerow’s command of the subject and choice of persistent issues. Most of the material, even from 2007, seems remarkably current
For anyone interested in health care and its intersection with public policy and politics—and especially for those who like their reading in uniform, premeasured doses—this book fills the prescription.