Book Review: The Healthy Country? A History of Life and Death in New Zealand, by Alistair Woodward & Tony Blakely


Available in bookstores nationwide.

The Healthy Country? A History of Life and Death in New Zealan
d is an intensely detailed book, broken into six sections. Otago University’s Tony Blakely and Auckland University’s Alistair Woodward have created a great reference book about the history of  public health in New Zealand.

The book covers everything, from our country’s health pre-Cook right through to 2010, and extending into the (healthier?) future. With life expectancy and mortality trends kicking off each section, The Healthy Country does make you think harder about your health habits. Looking at the effects and mortality of tuberculosis, ship-board disease, cancer, and suicide, it certainly made me very thankful for living with access to modern medicine.

Detailed graphs are sprinkled throughout the publication, helping you to understand highly detailed information. One that caught my attention is in the section Mortality Divergence 1980 to 2010. The graph shows details of cause-specific mortality by ethnicity (Māori, Pacific, European/Other, Asian) and gender. Depressing, yes, but really amazing to see the downward trend of the commonality of these diseases as modern medicine has advanced.

A huge amount of research and effort has been put in by the writers of The Healthy Country to create a solid and thorough history of life and death in New Zealand. While I greatly appreciate the nature of the book, there are probably one too many home truths for a general reader. That said, anyone with a keen interest in this area of New Zealand’s history will find it fascinating, and the book is a must-have for students and professionals in the health industry.

by Kimaya McIntosh

The Healthy Country? A History of Life and Death in New Zealand
by Alistair Woodward & Tony Blakely
Published by Auckland University Press
ISBN 9781869408138