Dr Dean Whitehead
This is the second edition of a very well received original text. This edition maintains the tradition of the first, while bringing it up-to-date from 1998. In doing so, this revised edition identifies just how much has changed, in terms of health and healthcare, over the last eight years or so. What impres- ses more than anything is the high- profile emergence of health promotion, over this period, as a sociologically constructed phenomenon. The books main revision is in highlighting the influence of a new paradigm of con- temporary health policy (not that new actually) which emphasizes the place of health promotion, community-based health care and health consumerism, in reconstructing the sociological underpinnings of health and illness for our clients and health services.
It is a comprehensive book but, at the same time, is concise as it covers a multitude of different issues. It is written in a clear and accessible style that makes it meaningful and understandable for most health professional groups – from undergraduate through to postgraduate. Although there is little reference to nursing in this text, the book does state that it should appeal to students under- taking vocational degrees and, in par- ticular, nursing. This is true, given the fact that the broader sociological con- cepts of health policy and health pro- motion do not apply exclusively to any one health professional group.
My only real criticism of this book is that it is not until the latter half of the book that the chapters dealing with a new paradigm for the social construc- tion of health take centre-stage. The first half of the book is a lead-in to more recent constructs by way of debate around traditional and conventional contexts. In particular, conventional medical knowledge and practice, individualized behavioural health constructions (health education) and issues centred on illness and disability, make up the first half of the book. I would have preferred to see it the other way around. What is useful however, about the first half of the book, is that it is essentially a critique of conventional, yet often outmoded contexts of health.
Therefore, this represents a valuable up-date on an already acclaimed and established book. I would recommend it to any health professional wanting to gain accessible and critical insight into the social construction of health and illness-related issues. It is, in particular, a useful companion book for those interested in the wider implications and dimensions of health promotion, health policy and public health.