- Series: California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public (Book 21)
- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First edition (June 6, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520274474
- ISBN-13: 978-0520274471
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #102,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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House on Fire: The Fight to Eradicate Smallpox (California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public) First Edition
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From the Inside Flap
“Bill Foege is one of the public health giants of our times. He was responsible for the design of the campaign that eradicated smallpox―the most important global health achievement in history and possibly the greatest feat in any field of international cooperation. His insights into the nature of this major event will undoubtedly help to meet the global health challenges of the 21st century.”―Julio Frenk, M.D, PhD, Dean, Harvard School of Public Health
“The eradication of a disease has long been the holy grail of global health and Bill Foege found it: more than any other person, he was responsible for the eradication of smallpox from the face of the earth. This is a story told by a remarkably humble man, about the extraordinary coalition that he helped to build, and the most impressive global health accomplishment the world has ever seen.”―Mark Rosenberg, author of Real Collaboration: What It Takes for Global Health to Succeed
“I am thrilled that Bill Foege, one of the great heroes of the smallpox eradication campaign, has written this important book. It tells a beautiful human story of an incredible public health triumph, and is full of lessons that could be applied to many of the global challenges we face today.”―Helene D. Gayle MD, President and CEO, CARE USA
“Bill Foege’s House on Fire is the first-hand account of how a revised strategy to eradicate smallpox was tested, validated, and applied. Without the global adoption of this new surveillance strategy, the final deathblow to this longtime global menace might never have been dealt.”―Adetokunbo O. Lucas, MD, DSc, author of It Was The Best of Times: From Local to Global Health
“Smallpox is the most devastating disease the world has known, as it destroyed lives and shaped history over the centuries. House on Fire provides a day-to-day account by my friend Dr. Bill Foege of the battle required to defeat this wily and diabolic virus."--President Jimmy Carter
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William Foege is one of the most unknown remarkable men of science. Working originally as a missionary doctor in Nigeria, he discovered and scientifically proved the surveillance and containment method of vaccination that reduced the number of people needing to be vaccinated from near 100% to 6%. As well as doing the science, then administering the strategy, he had to be an action hero, encountering many adventures in Nigeria during the Biafran Civil War and in hugely populated India.
There is lots of story here, not just dry science. In the African section alone I counted thirty-three interesting anecdotes. Here are two of my favorite quotes from the book.
* One had to be an optimist with a feel for numbers to be ecstatic at the same time that Bihar had over 5,000 known smallpox outbreaks and had just reported over 11,600 new cases of smallpox in a single week.
* It wasn't science that threatened to stop us. It wasn't even nature per se. Rather, it was human nature: the human factors that involve strikes, job security, political concerns, turf. I remembered those words from graduate school: "When you tangle with culture, culture always wins." As hard as the daily work had been, this was the only time I was discouraged and uncertain about the outcome. I thought we had lost the battle.
Four separate books should be written about Dr. Foege, a tireless promoter of global public health - his time in Africa, in India, as the head of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This book covers two of those times and when I finished the book I was energized and itching to go out and help save the world.
I draw attention to one of Foege's important messages. If you seek to improve a human condition, it is important to know that you have an intervention that works and that you can tell whether or not the intervention has improved the outcome. It is not just enough to throw good will and money at the problem. As Foege says: "this is a cause-and-effect world, and smallpox disappeared because of a plan, conceivewd and implemented on purpose by people."
On a lighter note, I enjoyed his saying never hire a pessimist. If you need one for a while, contract for one.