Monday, November 4, 2013

The cartoon network

Good health is nothing to joke about, but there is certainly something funny about the twists and turns we take in our pursuit of it.

In the last year, two books have been released that rely on political cartoons to make the case about how we Americans relate to health and health care.

Marion Nestle, author of "Eat Drink Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Food Politics," takes a discerning look at everything from fad diets to the farm bill, all through the eye of political cartoons.

And APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin is a co-author of "The Quest for Health Reform: A Satirical History," which follows efforts to enact meaningful change in the ways we deliver health over the years.

Both Nestle and Benjamin‚ along with "Quest for Health Reform" co-authors Theodore Brown, Susan Ladwig and Elyse Berkman, were on hand at the Public Health Expo on Sunday to sign their books and talk to fans.

"She's my hero," said Sarah Shimer, an APHA member who works on nutrition issues in Alaska, referring to Nestle, who is the Paulette Goddard professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. "I think she has a realistic approach to public health nutrition."

Nestle's book deals with the problems of the U.S. food system — everything from low-carb diets to funding for agriculture and farming, all of which she writes are fertile ground for cartoonists.

"Cartoonists do more than entertain," she writes. "They tap into the emotional core of complicated concepts and convey at a glance what might otherwise take pages to explain."

Mary Pittman agreed.

Pittman, who works at the Public Health Institute in Oakland, Calif., bought copies of both Nestle's and Benjamin's books, saying she likes the way the cartoons can show different sides of the story.

"They allow us through satire to look at these thorny issues and maybe see that there is not just a single truth," she said.

To check out the books for yourself, visit APHA Press in the center of the Expo hall.

— C.T.

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