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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Marilyn R. Gugliucci, PhD (University of New England)
Description: This book is a compilation of the research conducted on lesbian health. The editor outlines the challenges of such research for lesbians, researchers, and society. After a presentation of a comprehensive review of the issues, a list of recommendations and interpretations are suggested for mapping out future directions for lesbian health research.
Purpose: The stated purpose is to assess the science base strengths of lesbian health research, review the methodological challenges involved in conducting said research, and to suggest areas for future attention and research. Although women's health is gaining momentum as an area worthy of research, the lesbian subgroup continues to receive minimal attention. Raising the issues pertaining to lesbian health and research in this field is long overdue. The editor's objectives are clearly outlined and achieved. In addition, the contributors demonstrate recognition and knowledge of the psycho-social and societal issues inherent in lesbian cultures which add to the challenges of conducting lesbian health research.
Audience: The purpose is to help "...health professionals, researchers, policy makers, and others interested in lesbian health, to face the challenges and opportunities of the new millennium." A much stronger appeal needs to be made to lesbians. The text is clear, well organized, and accessible. I view it as empowering to lesbians, in that lesbians can assist in moving the health agenda forward through their participation in research and by supporting policy in this area. The contributors appear to be credible. Credentials are listed in their respective fields, however, there is no statement of philosophy regarding their attitudes of lesbianism.
Features: Contributors begin with an executive summary of lesbian health research reviews completed by the Institute of Medicine Committee on Lesbian Health Research Priorities. The summary is comprehensive and lays the foundation for the in-depth information found in the body of the text that includes the health status of and risks for lesbians. Included is a holistic definition of health which makes it clear that health is more than the absence of disease or infirmity. Lesbian health is viewed in the larger context of society and the healthcare system. Contributors include the societal challenges for lesbians and the effect these may have on their health. The strengths of this book are: the combination of education and sensitivity with which lesbian health issues are discussed; the consistency of the contributors' appeal to the reader to realize the impact these issues have on the research; the inclusion of cultural, racial, ethnic, and societal factors on this research; and the complexities of lesbian health at the personal, professional, and societal levels. Features worth noting are the use of tables, figures, and boxes that enhance the content, and an extensive and current bibliography that is organized by topics. A shortcoming is the repetitive information found in the executive summary that is restated in the body of the text.
Assessment: Lesbianism and its health issues will remain a part of all cultures and populations throughout the world. The proactive stance of this research review and the contributors' recommendations are critical to educating people about lesbians' health issues and relevant policies. It is about time that awareness is raised in this under-funded, under-researched, and largely closeted area of women's health. I commend the editor and contributors for their academic as well as humanistic exposition of this review.