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Health Care in America

A History

In Health Care in America, historian John C. Burnham describes changes over four centuries of medicine and public health in America. Beginning with seventeenth-century concerns over personal and neighborhood illnesses, Burnham concludes with the arrival of a new epoch in American medicine and health care at the turn of the twenty-first century.

From the 1600s through the 1990s, Americans turned to a variety of healers, practices, and institutions in their efforts to prevent and survive epidemics of smallpox, yellow fever, cholera, influenza, polio, and AIDS. Health care workers in all periods attended births and deaths and cared for people who had injuries, disabilities, and chronic diseases.

Drawing on primary sources, classic scholarship, and a vast body of recent literature in the history of medicine and public health, Burnham finds that traditional healing, care, and medicine dominated the United States until the late nineteenth century, when antiseptic/aseptic surgery and germ theory initiated an intellectual, social, and technical transformation. He divides the age of modern medicine into several eras: physiological medicine (1910s–1930s), antibiotics (1930s–1950s), technology (1950s–1960s), environmental medicine (1970s–1980s), and, beginning around 1990, genetic medicine. The cumulating developments in each era led to today’s radically altered doctor-patient relationship and the insistent questions that swirl around the financial cost of health care.

Burnham’s sweeping narrative makes sense of medical practice, medical research, and human frailties and foibles, opening the door to a new understanding of our current concerns.

About the Author

John C. Burnham is a research professor of history at the Ohio State University, where he is also an associated scholar in the Medical Heritage Center. His most recent books include What Is Medical History? and Accident Prone: A History of Technology, Psychology, and Misfits of the Machine Age.

Endorsements

"A synthetic work that enlightens a complex historical subject, Health Care in America is logical, coherent, and very well-written. There are many books that touch upon the American health care system, but none that provide a comprehensive overview that covers the span of American history. This book, which represents the thinking of a mature and distinguished intellectual, will be of interest to scholars, students, and laypeople in history, medicine, policy studies, and the social sciences."

- Gerald N. Grob, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, author of Aging Bones: A Short History of Osteoporosis

Reviews

"Burnham writes for a broad audience, and the prose is easily accessible to undergraduates."

- Choice

"Captivating and enjoyable."

- Stanford Magazine

"Burnham's thematic analysis of more than four hundred years of history is clearly presented, and his sweeping survey is illustrated with detailed stories and evocative images. Health Care in America is grand narrative in its finest form."

- Johns Hopkins University Press

"This book will be most useful for advanced undergraduates, particularly students interested in the health-related disciplines, as well as graduate students interested in the long history of medicine. Burnham provides a great starting point for scholars interested in the broad meaning of medicine and the questions associated with health and healing."

- Journal of the History of Medicine

"Burnham accomplishes exactly what the general synthesis should: providing the reader with all of the basic, essential information, while simultaneously provoking questions addressed in more specialized texts. On that score, Burnham performs quite admirably, and, as such, I heartily recommend Health Care in America."

- British Journal for the History of Science

"Burnham’s volume will rightfully find a wide readership among historians and lay readers alike, and this ambitious, thoughtful, sweeping synthesis of the history of American health care is a welcome addition to the historiography of medicine in the United States."

- Isis

"... [Burnham] concentrates not so much on medical, surgical, or even administrative innovations, but on the social, political, religious, and economic reactions to these innovations. By thus seeing the development of American medicine in this broad context, he brings into sharp relief the interaction between the health care enterprise and those who either cannot afford health care or have inadequate access to it."

- Watermark
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9781421416076 : health-care-in-america-burnham
Hardback
616 Pages
$65.00 USD
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616 Pages
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