Rachel Best is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. In her research, she analyzes how societies define problems and marshal public resources to address them. Across a wide range of issues—diseases, homelessness, and employment discrimination—she shows how advocacy and culture create inequalities in policy.
She is currently studying disease politics. When Americans come together to fight social problems, we focus our largest efforts on diseases, donating more money and volunteering more hours than for any other cause. Her book asks why diseases have dominated a century of American philanthropy and how our single-disease focus shapes our charitable giving and our public policy agenda. What do we gain by focusing our charitable and political impulses on diseases, and what do we lose?