Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder is just the start of must-read material for anyone interested in real-life application of social justice, human rights, and health equity for the poor. Below are a selection of titles that will provide further insight into the philosophical and moral underpinning of Partners In Health’s work.
[recommending_reading title=”Haiti After the Earthquake” author=”Paul Farmer” cover_image=”HaitiCover.png”]
Through the sharing of his experiences and the essays of fellow relief workers and survivors, Paul Farmer has given us a book that serves as both a first draft of history and a call to action for rebuilding a country devastated by natural and unnatural disasters. Farmer deftly tells the story of his multiple roles – doctor, administrator and diplomat. His writing remains accessible, revealing hope amid criticism and providing touches of humor in a unique personal narrative. “Haiti After the Earthquake” provides a relevant and engaging look into how Farmer sees the world. Readers will empathize with his anger over Haiti’s suffering as well as appreciate his insistence that the disaster should open the way for serious development and rebuilding in a country long ignored.
[recommending_reading title=”Partner to the Poor” author=”Paul Farmer” cover_image=”partnertopoorCover.png”]
Paul Farmer has traveled to some of the most impoverished places on earth to bring the best possible medical care to the poorest of the poor. Driven by his stated intent to “make human rights substantial,” Farmer has treated patients–and worked to address the root causes of their disease–in Haiti, Boston, Peru, Rwanda, and elsewhere in the developing world. In 1987, with several colleagues, he founded Partners In Health to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. Partner to the Poor collects his writings from 1988 to 2009 on anthropology, epidemiology, health care for the global poor, and international public health policy, providing an overview of his work. It illuminates the depth and impact of Farmer’s contributions and demonstrates how, over time, this unassuming and dedicated doctor has fundamentally changed the way we think about health, international aid, and social justice.
[recommending_reading title=”Global Health in Times of Violence (2009)” author=”Barbara Rylko-Bauer, Linda Whiteford, and Paul Farmer” cover_image=”globalhealthCover.png”]
The volume examines the impact of various types of violence on health, psychosocial well-being, and health care delivery. Through case studies that put a human face on violence, they challenge modern notions that violence is somehow a normal, inevitable part of human existence. Using the power of ethnographic narrative they make the case that it is important to see violence that happens to others, no matter how distant from us they may seem. By exploring violence through the prism of health and healthcare, the authors show how locally-situated suffering and inequality is shaped by larger political and economic forces, while also demonstrating the potential of health care for creating, even in the worst scenarios, opportunities for hope and change. By investigating the fields of violence that define our modern world, the authors provide alternative global health paradigms that can be used to develop more effective policies and programs.
[recommending_reading title=”Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor (2005)” author=”Paul Farmer” cover_image=”pathologiespowerCover.png”]
Pathologies of Power uses harrowing stories of life–and death–in extreme situations to interrogate our understanding of human rights. Paul Farmer argues that promoting the social and economic rights of the world’s poor is the most important human rights struggle of our times. With passionate eyewitness accounts from the prisons of Russia and the beleaguered villages of Haiti and Chiapas, this book links the experiences of victims to a broader analysis of structural violence. Farmer challenges conventional thinking within human rights circles and exposes the relationships between political and economic injustice, on one hand, and the suffering and illness of the powerless, on the other. Farmer’s urgent plea to think about human rights in the context of global public health and to consider issues of quality and access for the world’s poor should be of fundamental concern to a world characterized by the bizarre proximity of surfeit and suffering.
[recommending_reading title=”Mountains Beyond Mountains (2004)” author=”Tracy Kidder” cover_image=”mtnsbeyonmtnsCover.png”]
This 2004 biography has been called by one reviewer “an astonishing book that will leave you questioning your own life and political views.” Kidder tells the story of the founding and achievements of Partners In Health through the eyes and experience of Paul Farmer and fellow Co-founders Ophelia Dahl, Thomas J. White and Jim Yong Kim. Even today, the book continues to help bring new attention and resources to bear on global health issues, and many students in particular have been galvanized to pursue social justice issues in their home communities as well as nationally and internationally, as a result of reading it.
[recommending_reading title=”Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues (2003)” author=”Paul Farmer” cover_image=”infectionsCover.png”]
Paul Farmer has battled AIDS in rural Haiti and deadly strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis in the slums of Peru. A physician-anthropologist with more than fifteen years in the field, Farmer writes from the front lines of the war against these modern plagues and shows why, even more than those of history, they target the poor. This “peculiarly modern inequality” that permeates AIDS, TB, malaria, and typhoid in the modern world, and that feeds emerging (or re-emerging) infectious diseases such as Ebola and cholera, is laid bare in Farmer’s harrowing stories of sickness and suffering. Challenging the accepted methodologies of epidemiology and international health, he points out that most current explanatory strategies, from “cost-effectiveness” to patient “noncompliance,” inevitably lead to blaming the victims. In reality, larger forces, global as well as local, determine why some people are sick and others are shielded from risk.
[recommending_reading title=”AIDS & Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (1993)” author=”Paul Farmer” cover_image=”aidaccusationsCover.png”]
Does the scientific “theory” that HIV came to North America from Haiti stem from underlying attitudes of racism and ethnocentrism in the United States rather than from hard evidence? Award-winning author and anthropologist-physician Paul Farmer answers with this, the first full-length ethnographic study of AIDS in a poor society.
On June 10, 2014, Partners In Health Canada and the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) at the University of Toronto hosted a conversation and live webcast with Dr. Paul Farmer on Social Justice and the Movement for Global Health Equity. That conversation can be viewed in its entirety below.
Paul Farmer: Social Justice and the Movement for Global Health Equity
Q & A Session
For further information about the event, please see:
- Storify: The Other Side of the Conversation
- Paul Farmer, the “Good Doctor” of Haiti, talks global health in Toronto via The Toronto Star
- U of T Hosts Global Health Expert Paul Farmer via The University of Toronto