Two doctors envision a future in which many illnesses could be prevented, where “disease, not death…will be the medical failure.”
Brigham (Medicine/Emory Univ.) and Johns, Emory University's chancellor for health affairs, open their debut with a case study. In 1966, Carleton Hensley was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital suffering a systemic infection brought on by diabetes and a drinking habit. Despite the best efforts of the unnamed doctor, Hensley, just over the age of 60, died. From here, the authors advance a theory: What if diseases, like Hensley's diabetes, could be treated before they even began? With researchers constantly discovering more links between our genetic code and the predisposition to specific diseases, the authors describe a possible future in which patients like Hensley have a blood sample drawn at birth. They make it clear, however, that biology is not destiny, and they describe at length the specifics of how this future health care system would work. The main idea would be to guide people toward healthier living based on their genetic makeup, freeing up doctors to “once again become the caretaker of an individual person’s health and well-being.” Brigham and Johns also look at the potential overall savings to the health care system and examine the links between environment and health. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the book is the well-written prose. The authors discuss their main points in accessible terms, with a mix of thorough research and real-life evidence, without getting bogged down in technical jargon. They acknowledge that these changes, if they happen, will be a long time coming, but they effectively show how “[t]he promise is real and the voyage is underway.”
A clear, insightful vision of a health care system that could bring about a better, healthier world.