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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Nancy Jean Thompson, PhD (University of Iowa College of Public Health)
Description: In this book's 23 chapters, 34 authors examine the relationship between macrosocial factors/processes and health. One chapter introduces the theme, 12 chapters describe the relationship with respect to unique determinants, five critique and provide guidance on the measurement of this relationship, two discuss utilization of this information, and the remaining three chapters integrate information provided in the separate chapters.
Purpose: The purpose is to advance an understanding of the relationship between macrosocial determinants and health so that population health can be improved. This is a worthy yet difficult task as these constructs are large and difficult to measure. The contributors effectively argue that these determinants do influence health. However, the ability to use this understanding to improve population health is dependent on the development of more and better quality measurement of the manner in which the determinants influence health.
Audience: While the editor indicates that the book is primarily for epidemiologists, students and researchers in any area of public health would find this book useful. Further, scholars in many other disciplines would also benefit from reading pertinent chapters in this book.
Features: Each chapter provides information on this relationship in a scholarly yet clear manner. The authors provide appropriate references and avoid discipline-specific jargon. Use of the three final integrative chapters is unique and useful. However I would have liked to have seen more integration of the material such as organizing the material within the context of the Framework of Action (page 445). Further, I found the two listings of the structural determinants (pages 445-446) inconsistent.
Assessment: I intend to use this as the primary textbook in a class I teach on social determinants. I have been using another text (Berkman and Kawachi's Social Epidemiology (Oxford University Press, 2000)) and will continue to use certain chapters of that one. However, I think students will appreciate the fact that this book presents these determinants in more bite-sized pieces and provides more relevant information regarding the utilization of this information to improve population health.