Briefly, the book follows Farmer around for a few years while he and his small team of scientists, doctors and philanthropists set out trying to rid Third World countries of diseases the First World has managed to eradicate.
Think about that for a minute. There are entire countries with such poor access to health care that people DIE, regularly, from diseases that you and I don't even have to think about. Early on in the book, the author makes an observation about Dr. Farmer:
Education wasn't what he wanted to perform on the world, me included. He was after transformation.Ever since I picked up this book I feel like it has been doing just that. I simply can't continue to be the kind of person who, as Farmer puts it, "feels comfortable with the current distribution of money and medicine in the world." This is a book, and I guess more accurately a man, who doesn't simply inspire you, he reshapes the way you think.
I haven't quite figured out what exactly that is going to mean in my own life. I am pretty sure it doesn't mean I am going to sell all my possessions and move to Haiti to work in Farmer's hospital. But I'm also pretty sure it can't end in writing a check once. I underlined the heck out of the book but I was particularly struck by something Farmer said about "white liberals".
WL's think all the world's problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don't believe that. There's alot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It's what separates us from the roaches.He is quick to point out that WL's make up a good part of his funding stream and he is very thankful for them, but I can understand his frustration with the idea that actual change can happen without any effort or discomfort.
I spent the weekend in an expensive hotel room overlooking a fancy golf course. It was a beautiful place and I felt really lucky to be there but the whole time I couldn't get this passage out of my head:
...He's still going to make these hikes (seven hours to see two patients) he'd insist, because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, you're saying that their lives matter less than some others', and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world.
It should make all of uneasy that the medicines exist to cure many infectious diseases and that the resources exist to provide clean water and suitable housing for entire villages but there are still people dying of TB and living in squalor because quite frankly, not all lives seem to have the same worth to enough of us. The things I worry about-weight,career fulfillment, boys-these are luxurious things to worry about. But I no longer feel like it's enough to just count my blessings that I drew Fate's long straw. Partners in Health believes that health is a fundamental right, not a privilege. Don't read this book unless you are prepared to figure out your responsibility is making that come true.