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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Elyse A. Barnett, PhD (Foothill College)
Description: Ethne Barnes reviews major research in medical anthropology, effectively condensing hundreds of pages of documents that have been published in refereed journals in the past 30 years since the first PhD program. The reader is left to interpret controversies which remain in the field and which may never be fully resolved.
Purpose: In her preface, the author explains that the purpose of her book is to look at patterns of human behaviors through cultural evolution and the impact upon development of human disease. She believes that if educated persons in many disciplines understand the complex interactions between microbes and human culture, we will be able to prevent the major pandemics that have wiped out populations in history. When she introduces the reader to diseases that have made headlines in the past year, she appears to demonstrate the near impossibility of her objective.
Audience: The author states that she has taken great efforts to explain complex and detailed information in simple terms so that students can comprehend. Any professional involved with the care or study of disease and human behaviors will benefit from the breadth of materials presented, but medical anthropologists stands to gain the most from the constant reminders that despite the plethora of research, many of the original questions are still unanswered, while many new questions about disease and human behavior are unearthed every year. The author, a paleopathologist, has the expertise to introduce readers to a wide range of related issues.
Features: The author has the gift of lucid prose and the ability to condense complex material into simple, straightforward text. The paleopathologist writes, consistent with her background, in a manner that will be familiar to all healthcare professionals. In each chapter, the data and observations are summarized, followed by alternative explanations for contradictory findings. Although there is not a single chart, diagram, or picture in this 400+ page book, the description of the prose as lively in an accompanying press release is so true that the reader is motivated to read from cover to cover without interruption. However, the lack of charts, diagrams, and pictures might make it difficult to use this publication as a reference.
Assessment: For undergraduates studying medical anthropology or public health, this book will not replace the professor, but for healthcare professionals including nurses, physicians, and medical social workers, the book provides a fairly complete understanding of the subspecialty of medical anthropology which examines the interplay of human culture and the evolution of disease.