Review of The China-US partnership to Prevent Spina Bifida – The Evolution of a Landmark Epidemiological Study, by Deborah Kowal”
Let me say it right here: The China-US Partnership to Prevent Spina Bifida – The Evolution of a Landmark Epidemiological Study, by Deborah Kowal, is a monumental work. And here is why.
The book is a vivid account of a large epidemiological study spanning roughly sixteen years, from the conversation that started the project in 1983 to the first published results in 1999. There were new cultural and physical environments to get used to, bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, and miscommunications to clear up. The dedicated public health professionals from the U.S. and China overcame these issues in order to achieve the common goal of preventing neural tube defects (NTDs), which can happen early in a pregnancy. All this is chronicled in the book, along with revealing anecdotes and side-stories. Kowal, for example, notes how The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) visitors reacted to hearing the American cowboy song "Home on the Range" played on Chinese instruments — namely, “strange and eerily out of place.”