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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Jamesetta A. Newland, MS, RN, CS, FNP (Pace University)
Description: The author provides painstaking detail of the historical and political emergence of two systems in the U.S., biomedicine and alternative health systems. Rich descriptions of health practices of various groups demonstrates clearly the impact of class, race/ethnicity, and gender on the culture of healthcare services, access, and utilization in this country.
Purpose: The purpose is to provide a comprehensive overview of the relationship between biomedicine and a wide array of alternative medical systems in the United States. It is imperative in today's society of diversity that healthcare professionals understand, respect, and integrate the health beliefs and practices of various ethnic minorities in a culturally sensitive way into the delivery of services. The author provides numerous illustrations of alternative healthcare practices in various groups, including differing world views and the conflicts and similarities with traditional biomedicine.
Audience: The author does not state specifically for whom the book is intended. It will be useful to anyone interested in the reality of medical pluralism in the United States, and especially useful to professionals who work with ethnically or racially diverse groups. The author has extensive experience conducting research with marginalized groups in areas such as spiritualism, ethnomedicine, and osteopathy.
Features: The first part of the book covers the history and sociopolitical evolution of medical pluralism in the U.S., presented as an anthropologic discourse, and the topics of medical pluralism, biomedicine, homeopathy, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, acupuncture and the entire holistic health movement. These will be a difficult read for many. Subsequent chapters are more grounded and discuss different ethnic and racial groups. Rich illustrations of alternative health practices are given for Anglo-American and minority groups. The best thing about the book are the descriptions of the alternative health practices. The author uses the native terminology and gives thorough definitions or translations, which enhance understanding.
Assessment: This book is a comprehensive, but concise, description of the current medical pluralism in the U.S. It will be very useful to serious minded readers who want to better understand the situation from the perspective of the dominance over alternative medical systems by traditional biomedicine. The book compares more to writings in anthropology and sociology than to medical or nursing books.