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More than Medicine

More than Medicine

The Broken Promise of American Health

Robert M. Kaplan

ISBN 9780674975903

Publication date: 02/04/2019

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Stanford’s pioneering behavioral scientist draws on a lifetime of research and experience guiding the NIH to make the case that America needs to radically rethink its approach to health care if it wants to stop overspending and overprescribing and improve people’s lives.

American science produces the best—and most expensive—medical treatments in the world. Yet U.S. citizens lag behind their global peers in life expectancy and quality of life. Robert Kaplan brings together extensive data to make the case that health care priorities in the United States are sorely misplaced. America’s medical system is invested in attacking disease, but not in addressing the social, behavioral, and environmental problems that engender disease in the first place. Medicine is important, but many Americans act as though it were all important.

The United States stakes much of its health funding on the promise of high-tech diagnostics and miracle treatments, while ignoring strong evidence that many of the most significant pathways to health are nonmedical. Americans spend millions on drugs for high cholesterol, which increase life expectancy by only six to eight months on average. But they underfund education, which might extend life expectancy by as much as twelve years. Wars on infectious disease have paid off, but clinical trials for chronic conditions—costing billions—rarely confirm that new treatments extend life. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health spends just 3 percent of its budget on research on the social and behavioral determinants of health, even though these factors account for 50 percent of premature deaths.

America’s failure to take prevention seriously costs lives. More than Medicine argues that we need a shakeup in how we invest resources, and it offers a bold new vision for longer, healthier living.


  • Kaplan…argues that our enthusiasm for biomedical science has inflated health-care costs while encouraging us to neglect more fundamental determinants of ill health, such as behavior and social conditions.

    —Chris Pope, Wall Street Journal


  • Robert M. Kaplan is Director of Research at the Stanford School of Medicine Clinical Excellence Research Center. He has served as Associate Director of the National Institutes of Health. He is past president of the American Psychological Association Division of Health Psychology, the International Society for Quality of Life Research, and the Society of Behavioral Medicine, and is former Editor in Chief of Health Psychology and the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press