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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Janine Lewis, BS, MPH, PhD (cand)(University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health)
Description: This book provides a composite of black health in the United States, over the lifespan, and uses a socio-ecological approach to present the current state of affairs and provide direction on best practices in addressing the persistent disparities. It also frames health as a result of a dynamic relationship between individual risk/facilitative behaviors and the environment in which people live, work, and play.
Purpose: The purpose is to 1) provide "a forum for debate and discussion for the prevention of disease," 2) "influence opinion leaders and provide a futuristic perspective on black health issues," and 3) "document selected unhealthy conditions and advance viable strategies for ameliorating them." Given the disparities that continue to exist in black health, especially black male health, these are certainly worthy objectives. Until we can see the true extent of the problem, we cannot seek to address it in any sustainable way. The book meets these objectives with comprehensive and thoughtful chapters by authorities in the fields.
Audience: The authors suggest a broad audience that includes "students, academicians, public policymakers, and administrators in public health and related disciplines." The book will be of most use to students, for example, enrolled in a health disparities course. The information also could be of practical use to practitioners such as public health officials at state or local agencies, or representatives at community-based organizations seeking to write a needs assessment as part of a grant proposal with blacks as a target population. The three editors have collaborated on previous editions.
Features: The book provides an overview of the major causes of morbidity and mortality among blacks in the U.S., insight into risk factors related to lifestyle choices, and a review of emerging methods to address health disparities. The best features are the discussions of how community health workers can be employed as a cost-effective way to infuse culturally relevant health messages and practices into the community, and how social marketing is an important methodology that can be used to reduce disparities. The book could have incorporated more social justice points within chapters, instead of focusing such language in the preface and afterword. It also should have included some mention of the stark disparities in black birth outcomes (i.e., infant mortality, low birth weight, preterm birth). On a minor note, the front cover picture of a shopping district with high-end stores does not correlate well with the content.
Assessment: The chapters are relevant, cutting-edge, thoughtful, and well researched by experts in the field. The information is clearly presented and could easily be used for proposals and policy documents as well as research papers. Unfortunately, there has not been as much improvement in black health as public health researchers and practitioners would have liked since the previous edition seven years ago. Thus, a new edition and a new approach focused on the individual-community interaction are required.