Author: Andrew Russell
Most medical students will be familiar with the excellent Lecture Notes series, which provides concise, comprehensive coverage of a range of topics in an accessible format. The Social Basis of Medicine is no exception. The importance of the social sciences in the theory and practice of medical care is increasingly recognised. The concepts and principles that underpin the biopsychosocial approach can seem like another language to undergraduates familiar only with traditional sciences and maths. Rather than stressing the relative differences between the biopsychosocial and biomedical models, this book carefully unpicks their roles within a number of concepts, including healthcare systems, chronic disease and death. The use of case histories to illustrate some of the ideas is very effective and is an approach familiar to medical trainees. The application of seemingly abstract concepts to real-life clinical issues is the book's greatest strength.
The text is delivered in manageable chunks, with each chapter opening with a clear signpost of what will be covered and ending with a bullet-pointed summary. This approach sometimes sacrifices detail, but a brief reading list for each topic is useful for anyone wanting to extend beyond the basic curriculum. The use of specific examples and data in highlighted boxes gives room for the ideas in the main text to be expanded and explained in relevant and thought-provoking ways. Occasionally these boxes can run across two or more pages, which can make them difficult to follow. There are also one or two typographical errors (I'm not convinced that "hairdressers of fishermen" is a recognised occupation, for example) and the illustrations are not always helpful, but these minor issues should not detract from the overall effectiveness of the book in conveying complex ideas in an accessible manner.
The book is necessarily UK-centric and, as such, is unlikely to reach an international audience. Given how rapidly government priorities and policy change, the text will need regular review every few years to ensure it remains contemporary and relevant, but this is an issue for medical textbooks across the board. In general terms, The Social Basis of Medicine is a user-friendly, engaging introduction to a topic that even the most hardened surgeon-to-be would appreciate.
Who is it for? Primarily medical students, although anyone working within the healthcare sector would find it valuable.
Presentation: Apart from a few minor glitches, it manages to convey information in a readable and eye-catching manner.
Would you recommend it? Yes, for anyone interested in the place of medicine in the wider world.
Clinical Specialties (Oxford Assess and Progress)
Editor: Luci Etheridge
Publisher: Oxford University Press