The cover of the latest edition of The Nation's Health confronts the reader with a majestic picture of the Capitol Building, a full moon floating above, and a somewhat abnormal ECG tracing tethered below. This proves to be an excellent visual metaphor for what lies between the covers. The collection of provocative essays ranges from lofty explorations of the basic determinants of health in society to sobering discussions of the effects that rising health care costs have on competing social programs. And always, the critical role of the national government—current and potential— stands at the center of the picture.
Given the provenance of this volume, neither the cover nor its contents are accidental. The senior editor began this work while a professor of social medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, but by the time the book was published he had become the Assistant Secretary for Health, at the