Maggie Mahar, Ph.D.
Born in Syracuse, New York in 1949, Maggie Mahar is a blogger for The Century Foundation. Her blog, entitled Health Beat, consists of comprehensive, research-based entries on topics like health care, poverty, medicine, and international health.1 Health Beat is intended for those who already have some knowledge of the issues.2 Its academic tone and its credibility render the blog an influential voice in current health dialogues.
Health Beat is only the most recent of Dr. Mahar’s efforts; she is also an accomplished teacher and financial journalist. She taught English at Yale University, the school at which she herself completed a B.A. and a Ph.D. Her career in financial journalism spanned the 1980’s and continued into the 90’s, during which time she was published in Money, Financial Times, Barron’s, and The New York Times among others.3 Dr. Mahar has also authored two books. Her first, entitled Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-1999 (2003), discussed the stock market, its recent history, and implications for risk management. In Money-Driven Medicine: The Real Reason Health Care Costs So Much (2006), Mahar spliced anecdotes and research to illustrate the extent of this country’s shortcomings where health care is concerned.
Money-Driven Medicine was the basis for a documentary by the same name. Directed by Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, The Smartest Guys in the Room), the one-hour special is set to air later this year.4 Why are the inhabitants of Nashville, a city with the biggest, newest medical centers imaginable, still receiving sub-par care? Why are hospitals being run as for-profit businesses? Why is hospital money being put into hotel-like amenities but not palliative care? These are just a few of the questions Gibney’s new documentary will address.2
Mahar says she’d like to do more documentary work in the future. The visual nature of film elicits an emotional response that is distinct from the logical reaction inspired by more linear, written works.2 Mahar has always been interested in this dynamic, and sees documentary as an attractive alternative to writing books. “Publishing is dying,” says Mahar.5
Whatever form her future projects take, you can bet the issue of poverty in America will be front and center. Not only does Mahar see poverty as a cause of poor health, she also feels it’s been too long since we focused on this issue.2 In the 60’s, there were efforts to reduce monetary gaps and fight poverty. However, the Reagan era brought with it an animosity toward the less fortunate. Welfare gradually became a dirty word. Today, few other countries on Earth have the wealth discrepancies we see here in the US. The concept of “rich” and “poor” as two separate worlds not only hinders national solidarity, but also puts the health and longevity of low-income citizens at risk.6 "Poverty is the biggest cause of poor health," claims Mahar.5
Words of Wisdom
Due to her extensive financial knowledge, Dr. Mahar is the perfect person to advise young people with regards to the current financial crisis. “Don’t go into banking,” she warns.5 She believes the recession may be a good thing for younger generations, as it will discourage the brightest among us from using their talents to rake in the millions. Instead, promising students will turn to teaching or medicine. Dr. Mahar sees this as the silver lining of America’s predicament.
2 Mahar, Maggie. (Speaker). (2008). Speech to the Duke in New York Group [Presentation].
5 M. Mahar, personal communication, October 18, 2008.