Political Climate and Health
It is fair to ask why a book by a scientist would include any discussion on political affairs. The answer is that the real universe operates in a way that doesn’t neatly divide itself according to academic disciplines. As a professor of public health, I am acutely aware that political issues are closely related to the health and physical well-being of the citizenry. Some in the international epidemiological community have written articles suggesting that epidemiology and public health should devote a great deal more attention to political issues related to poverty, warfare, and repression, which could have a greater bearing on the public health of most people than traditional risk factors such as disease or environmental toxins. Of course, all of these factors are interrelated, and although a book about trends in health and the environment could be written without any reference to political issues, experience over the past decades has shown that it is not really possible to understand the health impact of environmental factors without considering political factors.
I will state a simple hypothesis that is open to debate and discussion. The hypothesis is as follows: democratic forms of government tend to reduce public-health hazards and provide for better health for citizens compared with nondemocratic governments. The rationale behind this hypothesis is that people are intensely sensitive to real or perceived threats to their health