Health care is political. It entails fierce battles over the allocation of resources, arguments over the imposition of regulations, and the mediation of dueling public sentiments—all conflicts that are often narrated from a national, top-down view. In All Health Politics Is Local: Community Battles for Medical Care and Environmental Health (UNC Press, 2022), Merlin Chowkwanyun shifts our focus, taking us to four very different places—New York City, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and central Appalachia—to experience a national story through a regional lens. He shows how racial uprisings in the 1960s catalyzed the creation of new medical infrastructure for those long denied it, what local authorities did to curb air pollution so toxic that it made residents choke and cry, how community health activists and bureaucrats fought over who'd control facilities long run by insular elites, and what a national coal boom did to community ecology and health. In a country riven by regional differences, All Health Politics Is Local shatters the notion of a shared national health agenda. It shows that health has always been political and shaped not just by formal policy but also by grassroots community battles.
Claire Clark is a medical educator, historian of medicine, and associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.