A young boy suffering from epilepsy in Nepal seeks treatment from traditional healers and western medicine. A young girl in a Tijuana slum observes the role pollution plays in the health of her community. A teenager in Atlanta is the only member of his family not infected with HIV and is learning to deal with the stigma of the disease.

This collection of unique narratives told from the perspectives of young people from around the world serves as a valuable educational tool, providing youth with a context for understanding global health, not just in a physiological sense, but from psychological and sociological perspectives as well. Representing six geographical regions and twenty-three countries, these stories address chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and epilepsy; infectious diseases like HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and typhoid; and mental and behavioral health issues such as depression, eating disorders, and smoking cessation.

These stories, along with ones that illustrate the environmental, political, and socio-cultural health factors that affect young people and their communities every day, are sure to spark debate and stimulate discussions in classrooms, community centers, and at dinner tables around the world. To assist in leading the conversations, Mendenhall has established a website:, to which she invites all teachers and parents.

Ages 12 and up.

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Andrew woke up with a guinea worm coming out of his foot as a result of drinking unsafe water a year previously.

Anjali awoke with a cough because smoke from kilns filled her dilapidated home.

Tyler stayed home from school because he had a stomachache from eating bad beef.

What are the links between the environments in which these young people live and their health problems?

The stories, most set in poor communities, draw attention to the effects of air, water, food, climate, urbanization, and other human impacts on health. A comprehensive teaching guide provides a context from which readers can explore problems and solutions in environmental health.


Mark struggled at school and became depressed because he was bullied. Ana Maria feared leaving her home after dark due to gun violence. Mario and his family benefited from an intervention to prevent the spread of avian flu in his village.

Health problems like these affect not only individuals but also families and communities. These examples suggest how community health is realized in peoples’ lives and affects people living in the same place who share similar beliefs and values. For example, feeling safe within one’s community is an essential part of living a healthy life.

The narratives in this book explore a wide range of topics―social ties, gender and sexuality, mental illness, violence, prevention, and health-care access―that shape community health. Featuring “Communities in Action” sketches describing good community health programming as well as a guide for teachers, this book, along with its companions Global Health Narratives: A Reader for Youth and Environmental Health Narratives: A Reader for Youth (UNM Press), provides a comprehensive curriculum that examines people’s health experiences across cultures and nations.