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Kirkus Review

Nov 26, 2019 | Reviews | 0 comments

Kirkus Review

The Purple World: Healing the Harm in American Health Care
Joseph Q. Jarvis, M.D., MSPH

A medical doctor disparages the American health care system and proposes an intriguing alternative in his debut book.

As a former private-practice family-medicine physician and public health official at the U.S. Department of Labor, the Nevada Division of Health, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Jarvis has broad experience that allows him to view the health care system from multiple perspectives. His assessment of the American health care system is bluntly and uniformly negative, and throughout the book, he rails against politicians on both sides of the aisle, public officials, and insurance companies.

He sees them as all contributing to “a wasteful system that is least able (among first-world countries) to prevent deaths that should be amenable to health-care interventions.” American voters also share blame for not insisting on health care reform, writes Jarvis: “If you want this to stop, you must do the necessary political heavy lifting—you must repeatedly throw people out of office until they get the message.” To illustrate some of the deficiencies of the current system, Jarvis includes anecdotes from his own work in the public sector. His insider’s point of view of state-level public-health challenges provides some of the most compelling moments. Particularly harsh are his observations about Nevada, which he calls “a caricature of the American free-enterprise concept.” Jarvis goes on to offer a comparison of that state’s legalized sex work, of which he disapproves for many reasons, to the nation’s health care system. However, the book is not merely a series of complaints; in fact, it concludes on a positive note, as the author lobbies for more “purple,” or bipartisan, thinking when it comes to health care. He proposes to reform health care with a “State-Based Universal Healthcare Act” that would empower states to craft their own system of “comprehensive, publicly financed health benefits,” such as one he specifically presents for the state of Utah. Whether this provocative idea is feasible remains an open question, but Jarvis does deserve credit for thinking boldly.

An effectively damning indictment that’s tempered by a glimmer of hope.