Raj Patel releases new book on the social, environmental causes of ill health

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August 11, 2021

Award-winning author, filmmaker and The University of Texas at Austin research scientist Raj Patel, with co-author and physician Dr. Rupa Marya, examine the social and environmental causes of ill health in their latest book, Inflamed: Deep Medicine and the Anatomy of Injustice.

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, this book examines the ways in which health disparities are connected to colonialism, politics and capitalism.


Surprising ideas from Inflamed include:

  • The benefits of the sun;
  • Inflammation-related diseases kill more than any other;
  • In the U.S. Black babies are three times more likely to live if they have Black physicians caring for them;
  • Noise levels can create inflammation;
  • Indigenous people make up less than 5% of the world’s population but steward more than 80% of the planet’s biodiversity;
  • In the U.S., you can tell the difference between Black and white parts of town with a thermometer; and more.

Published Aug. 3, Inflamed has been highly praised:

"Physician Marya, cofounder of the Do No Harm Coalition, and University of Texas research professor Patel (The Value of Nothing) examine the social and environmental causes of ill health in this thought-provoking treatise. Taking eight bodily systems in turn, they explain the basic functions of each system and how nongenetic factors contribute to malfunctions. For example, the section on the immune system describes how 'age-related diseases of chronic inflammation,' such as diabetes and Alzheimer's, have been linked to cellular damage caused by 'stress, trauma, and environmental toxicity,' and why 'historically oppressed groups,' such as Blacks and Indigenous Americans, had higher death rates from COVID-19 . . . This is a persuasive argument for the need to address the systemic problems that plague people's minds and bodies." —Publishers Weekly

"A passionate exploration of world poverty, racism, injustice, and colonialism that draws a parallel to inflammation . . . [Rupa Marya and Raj Patel] are rigorous scientists, so readers will learn a great deal as they describe human biological systems, focusing on the damage inflicted by inflammation but casting a wide thematic net . . . Thought-provoking, knowledgeable, and ripe for debate and further study." —Kirkus Reviews

"Most social justice movements have recognized that the health of oppressed people is worse than the health of those in power. This well-written, compelling book expands on that idea with the concept of 'deep medicine,' which looks at health disparities brought on by colonialism, politics, and capitalism . . . An excellent book for anyone concerned with health, community, or the environment. The accessible writing will draw readers in." —Margaret Henderson, Library Journal

Patel teaches at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he studies the world food system and alternatives to it. This fall, Patel will lead graduate students through a policy research project that will challenge participants to explore the parameters, contradictions and opportunities for a replacement to the Farm Bill for 2023.

Patel's books include Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing. He co-authored with Jason W. Moore A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature and the Future of the Planet, published by the University of California Press.

Earlier this summer, Patel released a documentary about climate change and the food system.

Book Events

  • Aug. 3, 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET: City Lights (San Francisco), launch event via Zoom with Association of Ramaytush Ohlone, Do No Harm Coalition, Health Justice Commons, and San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility
  • Aug. 4, 8 p.m. ET: Politics and Prose / Harvard Bookstore (DC / Boston), conversation with Walter Riley
  • Aug. 17, Noon PT / 3 p.m. ET: Ecological Farming Association (EcoFarm), webinar with book sales through Bookshop Santa Cruz


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