Book Review: Introduction to International Health Theory: An Interdisciplinary Perspective

By | 27th March 2020

Review by Justin Mak

Title: Introduction to International Health Theory: An Interdisciplinary Perspective; 2nd Edition 

Author name: Raywat Deonandan 

Place of publication and publisher: Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt

Date: 2017

Number of pages: 96

Price: $54.60 USD

ISBN: 978-1-5249-3759-1


Introduction to International Health Theory: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (2nd Ed.) is an undergraduate utilitarian foundational textbook supporting a companion university course.  It purposefully shies away from specificities of global health.  Instead of focusing on a purely medical or health perspective, the author views international health through a lens of development, history, and economics, exploring key theoretical constructs that dictate policy, and the socioeconomic forces which allow for the manifestation of disease.  The author considers indigenous health an important component of international health; he has added a chapter in this edition on this subject.

The goal of this textbook is “to empower persons to analyze aspects of international health from an interdisciplinary perspective, to be able to constructively engage in the discussion of how best to address global health disparities, regardless of the political origins of the other participants in the discussion”.  As such, each chapter presents concepts in a developmental fashion, usually beginning with the prominent modern theories of international health of the 20th century and often concluding with opposing arguments of said theories.  Much of the text resonates with the Millennium Development Goals and subsequent Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The book can serve as a primary resource for those who have or want to develop deeper interest in the subject.  The author provides recommended readings, additional information, and references in the form of hyperlinks within the text.  Discussion questions are also provided at the end of each chapter to expand and elaborate on concepts explored within the chapter and to contextualize the concepts based on the origins of the participants.

The book is much more than a primer.  It is an excellent resource and guide for an international health program evaluation framework; a wide range of evidence indicators such as intention, target, outcomes, temporal factors, sustainability, and ethics are presented for discussion in specific chapters or sporadically throughout the text.  The book challenges and evokes readers to critically assess the rationale, approach, and practices of the global health movement.

The author begins with the history of international health and naturally ends with the emerging issues of the future.  While he has confessed that the book reflects his “own biases and personal agenda”, he has made good on his promise “to remain as politically neutral as possible”.  On one hand, he admits that these emerging issues are purely speculative.  On the other, he quickly challenges readers that these ‘speculative’ emerging issues may have historical precedents.  He leaves the concluding chapter open-ended, leaving readers to ponder and anticipate the future of global health.