CFR Resources

Thomas J. Bollyky, “Health Without Wealth,” Foreign Affairs 97, no. 6 (November/December 2018): 168–178.

An in-depth discussion of the rise of noncommunicable diseases, adapted from Bollyky’s book. (4,000 words)

Thomas J. Bollyky and Amanda Shendruk, “The Changing Demographics of Global Health,” Council on Foreign Relations, November 7, 2017.

A brief discussion of the rise of noncommunicable diseases with a number of graphs and visualizations. The ideas discussed here are further developed in Bollyky’s article in Foreign Affairs and in his book. (1,600 words) 

Claire Felter, “The End of Antibiotics?,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 29, 2018.

An accessible backgrounder on the overuse of antibiotics. (1,600 words)


John M. Barry, “How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America,” Smithsonian, November 2017.

A wide-ranging story about the Spanish Influenza in 1918. (4,600 words)

Aaron E. Carroll and Austin Frakt, “The Best Health Care System in the World: Which One Would You Pick?,” New York Times, September 18, 2017.

In this tournament-style discussion of health-care systems, the New York Times asks a panel of experts to choose a foreign system to use as a model in the United States, discussing benefits and drawbacks along the way. (3,000 words)

Austin Frakt, “Medical Mystery: Something Happened to U.S. Health Spending After 1980,” New York Times, May 14, 2018.

An analysis, with graphs, of American spending on health care. (1,500 words)

Andrew Jacobs and Matt Richtel, “A Nasty, Nafta-Related Surprise: Mexico’'s Soaring Obesity,” New York Times, December 11, 2017.

A look at how NAFTA and a rising standard of living have led to health problems in Mexico. (3,300 words)

Oscar Lopez and Andrew Jacobs, “In Town With Little Water, Coca-Cola Is Everywhere. So Is Diabetes.,” New York Times, July 14, 2018.

A snapshot of one Mexican town that illustrates some of the causes of the rise in diabetes in that country. (2,000 words)

Nina Martin and Renee Montagne, “Focus on Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms in Danger,” NPR, May 12, 2017.

This investigation from NPR and ProPublica looks into why maternal health in the United States is worse than in any other developed country. (9,000 words)

Linda Villarosa, “Why America’s Black Mothers and Babies Are in a Life-or-Death Crisis,” New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2018.

This feature article discusses maternal death among black Americans. A podcast episode featuring the reporter and one of the interviewees from this story also appears on this list. (10,200 words)

Ed Yong, “The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready?,” Atlantic, July/August 2018.

A discussion of preparations, particularly in the United States, for an infectious disease pandemic. (8,900 words)


Michael Barbaro, “A Life-or-Death Crisis for Black Mothers,” The Daily, May 11, 2018.

A podcast episode that includes an introduction to the problem of maternal death among black mothers in the United States and an interview with a black mother.

A related New York Times article also appears on this list. (26 minutes)

Sick Around the World,” Frontline, PBS, April 15, 2008.

An examination of health-care systems in developed countries around the world. The reporter in this episode also wrote a book on the same subject that appears on this list. (56 minutes)

Countdown to Zero,” Vice Media, December 1, 2015.

An excellent overview of the history of the AIDS epidemic and the effort to fight it. (50 minutes)

Why the U.S. Never Got Universal Health Care,” Axios, June 16, 2018.

A short and informative explainer about the American health-care system. (2 minutes)


Thomas J. Bollyky, Plagues and the Paradox of Progress (2018).

Written by a CFR fellow, this book is a little less accessible than others in this list, but it features an excellent discussion about the problem of noncommunicable diseases. The ideas in the book are also discussed in the two articles by Bollyky that appear on this list. (280 pages)

David France, How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS (2016).

This book provides a comprehensive history of AIDS that extends to the present day, with a focus on the role of activism in the fight against AIDS. (656 pages)

Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (2010).

This Pulitzer Prize–winning book, written by a physician, explains what cancer is, where it came from, and how humanity has reacted to it. (608 pages)

Daniel Oshinsky, Polio: An American Story (2005).

Written by a social historian, this Pulitzer Prize–winning book tells the history of the fight against polio in the United States. (368 pages)

T. R. Reid, The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care (2009).

Written by a journalist, this book examines health-care systems in industrialized countries around the world and compares them to the Affordable Care Act in the United States. Reid also worked on a Frontline episode on the same topic, which appears on this list. (304 pages)

Randy Shilts, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, Twentieth anniversary edition (2007).

Originally written in 1987, this award-winning book by an investigative journalist tells the story of how AIDS spread unchecked through the early 1980s as many people ignored or denied it. (660 pages)

Laura Spinney, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World (2017).

This highly readable history of the Spanish flu narrates the pandemic and argues that it had consequences that reach much farther than many realize. (352 pages)


Brian Fung, “Chart: What Killed Us, Then and Now,” Atlantic, June 22, 2012.

A simple graph that clearly shows the shift from infectious diseases to noncommunicable diseases as the main health problems in the world.

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