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A Book on War, A Book on Health

It’s the day before the last day of the year, so I thought I’d share some of my more recent reads with you before I start digging into the fabulous new books I got for Christmas!

The Things They Carried
by Tim O’Brien

This book is a collection of short stories first published in 1990 which tell the interconnected tales of a group of soldiers during the Vietnam war.  All are quite heartbreaking, especially the first, which lends its title to the book.  If you think you’ve heard it all, you might just be surprised at how fresh, original and moving this collection is.

Prescription for a Healthy Nation: A New Approach to Improving Our Lives by Fixing Our Everyday World
by Tom Farley and Deborah A. Cohen

I enjoyed this book like only a public health geek can.  The premise is that although Americans often think we have the free choice to exercise, smoke and drink less, and eat healthier, our environments are often set up to make these things more difficult for us than they need to be (and often to the benefit of large corporations).  The authors argue that to some extent, we should try to change our environment in order to make us healthier — for example, demanding sidewalks in our neighborhoods to allow us to walk from point A to point B, creating more space for vegetables and healthy foods in our grocery stores (seriously, does there need to be an entire aisle devoted to soda?), preventing the sale of chilled beer at gas stations in order to reduce the risk of drinking and driving.  Some of their ideas are controversial, but they make the point that there are plenty of ways in which our health and safety are already regulated, which we may take for granted.  Anyone want to go back to the good ole’ days of smoking in the office?  Cars sold without seat belts and with doors that fly open upon impact?  No fluoride in the water supply?  They argue that these and other small changes could make huge differences in keeping us safe and healthy.  Certainly an interesting read, especially for public health folks that like to rely on the model that increasing knowledge will lead to healthier behavior.  That’s not always the case, of course, and this book tries to provide a few solutions to that dilemma.

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