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From The CriticsReviewer: Sanija Bajramovic, MD (Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine)
Description: Health is a multidimensional entity. Likewise, there are multiple factors responsible to maintain or disrupt its balance. The editors of this book attempt to deliver research-based information that demonstrates clear relationships between various social conditions and health of community with special reference to European countries. The editors have assembled 12 chapters written by 22 contributors from four countries.
Purpose: The purpose is to offer useful tools for policy makers by summarizing some of the important research findings regarding social factors that are critical for disease prevention and health promotion.
Audience: This book is written for graduate level students and practitioners in public health and public health policy. The contributors are involved in the appropriate field of study. Because of their experience and expertise they can make appropriate recommendations for policy for each kind of social condition they write on to improve community health.
Features: The first chapter begins with an overall introduction to the subject matter. In subsequent chapters contributors address various social conditions including stress, biological condition of the mother, economy, psychological environment, transportation, social support, social cohesion, food, poverty, minorities, and health behaviors (i.e., smoking) and their relationships with the health status of the community. The editors and contributors point out very important issues in public health that have not been discussed in this magnitude before (i.e., smoking rates and the impact of health education). Contributors point out how health education is critical and yet is not effective on its own to reduce the rates of smoking among lower socio-economic groups. Such education needs to be accompanied by policy and environmental changes. Specific policy recommendations are included in most chapter discussions. Some very interesting diagrammatic illustrations have also been included. Overall, a better diagrammatic, graphical, or pictorial presentation could improve the quality of the book. The book ends with an epilogue that points out the WHO's "Health for All" initiative and how policy on social conditions may be a key factor in meeting the goals and objectives of this initiative.
Assessment: Although many other community and public health textbooks and articles have mentioned or touched on this subject matter, personally I have not read any book that has focused just on social determinants of health and their power to improve global health. The editors give legitimate reasons and appropriate tools for policy makers so that they can justify their proposals. The subject matter can also stimulate some thought provoking discussions in the classroom as well as debate among policy makers. This is a significant contribution to the field of public health.