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The Body Economic


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About the Author

Dr. David Stuckler is a Senior Research Leader at Oxford University and Honorary Research Fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. He lives in Oxford, England. Dr. Sanjay Basu is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and an epidemiologist at the Prevention Research Center of Stanford University. A former Rhodes Scholar, he lives in San Francisco.


Boston Globe "Meticulously researched and richly annotated, The Body Economic is nonetheless a very accessible and engaging book. The authors succeed admirably in making the case that downsizing (or dismantling) the social safety nets that exist to protect those in need directly leads to increased sickness and death within the general population... The lessons contained within The Body Economic should be carefully considered by both policy makers and constituents." Financial Times "Austerity kills -- and on a grand scale. So argue David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu in The Body Economic, a powerful attack on efforts to curb public spending since the financial crisis, which holds belt-tightening politicians responsible for a health catastrophe... By telling the stories of individual victims of austerity as well as analyzing its impact at the population level, Stuckler and Basu provide a wealth of evidence that it is bad for our health. That is a valuable contribution to the current debate." Choice "This book is timely, very readable, well written, and informative, and should be read by those interested in the health of the economy and citizens. Highly recommended." Financial Times "[Stuckler and Basu] gathered and analyzed huge sets of data on the effects that economic stringency has had on public health in recent history. They published their findings in their 2013 book The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills. If you think the book's title is a tad dramatic, think again. Looking at cases such as European Union-backed budget cuts in Greece and the Great Recession in the United States, Basu and Stuckler conclude, as they wrote in a New York Times op-ed, that 'austerity -- severe, immediate, indiscriminate cuts to social and health spending -- is not only self-defeating, but fatal.'" The New Republic "Stuckler and Basu provide a capable summary of the basic problems with austerity economics as economics, but their signal contribution in this book is to focus on the health effects of austerity... They find that, the more austerity was practiced in a state or country, the more people got sick and the more people died. In short, 'Austerity Kills' is more than just a slogan. Austerity doesn't work as economics, and it kills people in the bargain." Foreign Affairs "Stuckler and Basu approach austerity policies from a medical perspective, producing an extensive array of evidence to show that austerity -- especially cuts to spending on public health -- increases illness and death. Most compelling is their finding that countries that have suffered through recessions have avoided deterioration in their citizens' well-being by maintaining government spending on public health." Bookforum "[Stuckler and Basu] wear their expertise and statistical knowledge lightly, opting to deliver their research findings in a jazzy, casual tone... The real power of the book lies in the epidemiological insight that it's possible to think about medicine not in the exclusive terms of the individual patient's life, but by tracking the conditions that affect health throughout society." The Guardian "[This] explosive, backed by a decade of research, and based on reams of publicly available data... In a powerful new book, The Body Economic, Stuckler and his colleague Sanjay that austerity is now having a 'devastating effect' on public health in Europe and North America." Times Higher Education "This book deserves to be widely read and widely influential. It brings crucial arguments, set out and tested in academic papers, to a larger audience. It lays bare the madness of the conventional wisdom that the answer to the current crisis is to cut public spending, and it explains clearly why the social policy response to economic events matters. It reminds us that politicians have a devastating tendency to listen to ideology rather than history -- and that the cost of this approach can be counted not just in lost economic output but in human lives." Shelf Awareness for Readers "Throughout the book, Stuckler and Basu rely on economic studies, most of them subjected to peer review, to underline a critical point: public health is economic health. Far from being the 'luxury' the IMF categorizes it as, public health spending is in fact necessary to the economic recovery of a country in recession. The Body Economic makes the point in stark and accessible terms... [A] thoroughly researched look into the effects of austerity policies on public health." Nature "What price a healthy stock market? In this stringent economic analysis, sociologist David Stuckler and epidemiologist Sanjay Basu argue that during a recession, austerity-based cuts to social spending erode public health... A sobering call for democratic, informed choices in response to recession." Salon "Today's politicians know very well that some of their policies kill people. But they go ahead and carry out those policies anyway. How they have done it recently is brilliantly documented in this book... The authors make a powerful case that the austerity measures adopted in some countries -- and imposed on some others -- had a direct and fatal impact on those countries' public health. " The Progressive "An admirable work, eminently readable and yet without skimping on rigorous analysis." In These Times "Stuckler and Basu show distressingly consistent increases in such key public-health indicators as suicides, heart disease, alcoholism and HIV infection in societies embarking on steep reductions in social spending. Correspondingly, societies (such as Iceland, Sweden and Finland) that have refused to pare back their welfare states in hard times exhibit steady -- and, in some cases, increasing -- signs of public health." The Observer, UK "Global austerity has a rarely discussed death toll, and David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu's The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills breaks the silence." Publishers Weekly "Oxford Senior Research leader Stuckler and Stanford epidemiologist Basu offer insight into the economic crisis -- including the Great Recession -- and its effect on public health, arguing that countries attempt to fix recessions by balancing budgets, but have failed to protect public well-being." Kirkus Reviews "A dramatic study emphasizing some of the combined consequences of ideological obsessions and bureaucratic thoughtlessness." Booklist "This informative book will add important perspective to the ongoing debate on the consequences of economic policies." Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, Kolokotrones University Professor, Harvard Medical School, and Founding Director, Partners in Health "The Body Economic is a bold synthesis of quantitative data, historical cases, personal narratives, and sociological and clinically informed analyses about the effects of investing, or failing to invest, in public health safety nets. In investigating the causes of adverse health outcomes in populations from the United States to the Soviet Union to Greece, Iceland, and the UK, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu expose many of the myths and mystifications that prop up the regnant ideologies of fiscal austerity. Stuckler and Basu revive the great, progressive tradition of social medicine. Their work is important not just for all those who deliver health care services, but also for anyone who might, just might, one day be a patient." Ha-Joon Chang, PhD, Faculty of Economics, Cambridge University, and author of 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism "A powerful and important contribution to our future. Stuckler and Basu use statistics not to dehumanize people, but to bring them to life." Richard Parker, Lecturer in Public Policy and Senior Fellow, Shorenstein Center at Harvard Kennedy School, and author of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics "The Great Recession's visible costs -- bankruptcies, foreclosures, unemployment, government deficits -- and their still-lingering effects are chillingly well-known. Less understood are the health consequences -- the suicides, epidemics, and soaring mortality rates -- that represent the most intimate human effects not just of our global financial collapse but also of the mistaken austerity programs that have followed. The Body Economic is required reading for anyone who wants to see how bad politics and worse policies have worsened suffering around the world when, by any democratic measure, our common obligation is to end suffering." Darrell J. Bricker, CEO, Ipsos Public Affairs, and author of The Big Shift: The Seismic Change in Canadian Politics, Business, and Culture and What It Means for Our Future "The Body Economic is must reading for anyone who wants to understand the real life consequences of governments making the wrong policy decisions in response to the worst economic disruption since the Great Depression. In a debate too often dominated by ideology, Stuckler and Basu bring a refreshing, evidence-based perspective to the table. And, they present their case--that an obsession with austerity hurts both economies and people--in an accessible, personal way. This isn't a story about spreadsheets and algorithms--it's about the ordinary people who pay the ultimate price for their government's cavalier ideological obsessions."

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