This past November, Seattle swore in a new Mayor and City Councilmember, and we here at ShelfTalk thought this would be a great opportunity to continue our series of posts in which we invited your representatives to share books that have meant a lot to them. This time, we asked them “What book was most influential in your life or career and why?” Next week we’ll feature Mayor Durkan’s response, but let’s start things off with Seattle’s newest City Councilmember, Teresa Mosqueda.
“What book was most influential in your life or career and why?”
Sickness and Wealth: The Corporate Assault on Global Health, edited by Meredith Fort, Mary Anne Mercer, and Oscar Gish.
The voice of Dr. Stephen Bezruschka projected through the radio speakers while driving home late one night as I left the Master in Public Administration program at Evergreen in 2004. “Alternative Radio” on NPR was featuring a new book that local UW professor, Dr. Bezruschka, had contributed to and his words brought me goosebumps – it underscored all that I had studied and observed to be true: societies that have wider gaps between the rich and poor have worse population health. I ordered Sickness and Wealth that night and poured over it with my highlighter while flagging almost every other page.
Each essay, chapter by chapter, went into depth about how wealth inequality is making us sick. In the US, one of the most inequitable countries in the world, our elders die earlier, our babies die more frequently, and our community is overall sicker because of wealthy inequality. Globally, the world’s population health is worsening when US grown neoliberal free trade policies are exported and imposed on other countries, causing countries to privitize health, education and housing systems as a condition of receiving much needed international funding from the IMF and World Bank. We are making ourselves sicker and harming the health of populations globally by imposing and perpetuating – at home and abroad – policies the create greater health inequity instead of greater shared prosperity.
There is a direct correlation between treating healthcare – and by extension, housing, education, local agriculture, good living wage jobs (forces that create shared economic stability) – as a commodity rather than a right that permeates throughout our public policies. Sickness and Wealth is a tremendous resource to learn more about the commodification of public systems that impacts our health, and the ways in which we must fight the corporate assault on our health locally and internationally. Chapter 7 summarizes these connections well:
“As budgets and authority wane for the world’s health ministries and the WHO, protections for public health – guarantees for safe housing, food, water, and economic security – are giving way to new organizing principals with little public attention, internationally binding trade agreements, which assure that commerce in series (like health care) is not “unnecessarily” burdened by regulations (including those that safeguard public health), are being put into place… Instead of regulating tariffs on commodities like steel, the trade agreements currently being negotiated, such as GATS and FTAA, will facilitate the privatization of vital services such as health care and water and deregulate standards for food, the environment, and working conditions.” (p79)
Sickness and Wealth has been my manifesto; it drives the way I shape policy and fight for justice. If we care about improving population health, which is what I have devoted my work to, then we must fight for greater shared economic prosperity, against the privatization of our health and human service programs, and invest in housing, health care, food access and workers’ rights. I recommend Sickness and Wealth to all who want greater economic justice and healthy communities, here at home and throughout the globe.