Parnassus Books welcomes Dr Sandro Galea author of Well: What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Health.
What makes the difference between healthy and unhealthy on a largescale? According to Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health and author of WELL: What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Health, Americans focus on the wrong things when they think about health. Take, for example, the life and death of the iconic blues singer Blind Willie Johnson who was born in the segregated South at the tail end of the 19th century. As a child he was a victim of domestic abuse and was blinded at the hand of his stepmother at the age of seven. Poverty dogged him throughout his life and when his house burned down in 1945, he was forced to live in the ruins. Amid these damp and cold living conditions, he caught malaria and soon died. According to his wife, he was refused treatment at a hospital, either because of the color of his skin or his disability.
The story of Willie is more than just a heartbreaking tale. It exemplifies just how profoundly our health is shaped by the forces around us. One could argue that it wasn’t just malaria that killed Willie but that it was the sum of his life’s hardships: poverty, racism, violence, homelessness, and limited access to healthcare.
WELL offers a radical call to reexamine the way we think about health. Americans talk often and loudly about doctors, health insurance, diet, and lifestyle—but overlook how health interacts with factors like power, wealth, politics, justice, and compassion. As Galea shows, until we fully understand these forces and bring them to the forefront of our conversation, we will never meaningfully move the needle on our nation’s health.
Sandro Galea is Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor at the Boston University School of Public Health. He has been named an “epidemiology innovator” by Time and one of the “World's Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters. A native of Malta, he has served as a field physician for Doctors Without Borders and held academic positions at Columbia University, University of Michigan, and the New York Academy of Medicine. At the time of his current appointment, he was the youngest dean of a school of public health in the United States.