What do Elton John, Sean Penn, and a uOttawa law professor have in common?

Posted on Tuesday, June 23, 2015

By Alexa Schryer

A book entitled To Save Humanity: What Matters Most for a Healthy Future is not what you might expect from two accomplished university academics. Professor Steven Hoffman of uOttawa’s Common Law Section and Julio Frenk, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, have published a collection of 96 short essays on today's most pressing issues in global human health.

What is unique about the publication is that the essays are authored by a wide assortment of recognizable figures from the worlds of politics, science, academia, business, and advocacy. Well-known contributors range from entertainers like Sean Penn and Elton John, to politicians such as Michael Bloomberg and Bill Clinton, to media personalities like Arianna Huffington, as well as uOttawa Common Law professor Colleen Flood and Steven Hoffman himself. Every single contributor was asked a simple question: What is the one thing that matters most for a healthy future?

The book aimed to trigger and curate conversations. “Future progress is anything but certain. If more people have informed views on this question, we can achieve a greater health impact than if these views remain obscured,” said Hoffman. With a wide-ranging scope, this publication sheds light on influential issues, especially those that surround the idea of health. The authors seized on this opportunity to showcase their ideas and thoughts on a specific subject they consider most pressing for the future of global health. The book is formatted in a simple manner. It was designed to “allow readers to dive in and out of it with ease,” explained Hoffman. The essays are even arranged in alphabetical order, allotting equal importance to each. The passages stand alone, but together, they shine.

The book is also very diverse. “The over-arching goal was to achieve a diversity of leading perspectives across geography, gender, and generations,” said Hoffman. The contributors were selected from a variety of sources, including Time magazine’s top 100 most influential people, the list of Nobel Prize winners, Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 global thinkers, and many more. Professor Hoffman and Dr. Frenk have successfully brought together a total of 96 contributors: 38 from developing countries, 41 women, and 11 under the age of 40, with the youngest being only 17 years’ old.

Even though it is atypical of academic sources, this book can still be used as a teaching tool. Professor Hoffman himself will be using it this year in a global health law clinic course he teaches. He said that “due to the large diversity within the authors, and the fact that they were not asked to write on a specific subject, the book serves as a fantastic introduction to the importance of global health.” Professor Hoffman wants his students to be interested in the material presented to them, and this book is a perfect aid to help engage them and show that “even people they admire also care about these subjects”.

To Save Humanity: What Matters Most for a Healthy Future is honest, up-front and encapsulates genuine ideas from today’s leading thinkers.

“Hopefully, the book will serve as a model for a variety of issues, such as the environment, poverty, and more,” concluded Professor Hoffman.

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