Public Health (2004) 118, 602–605
BOOK REVIEWS Oxford Textbook of Public Health—4th Edition Edited by R Detels, J McEwen, R Beaglehole, H Tanaka, One volume, 2016 pages. ISBN 0-19-850959-6. £95.00 New paperback edition The Oxford Textbook of Public Health has been the standard text since 1984, with Walter Holland its founding editor, to whom this fourth edition is dedicated. The present editorial team is strongly international. As a previous reviewer of the hardback edition stated, this is ‘an important book that should be found…at the side of specialists in public health…’1 Now for the first time, it is available in a single volume paperback. So, unlike its three-volume hardback sibling, lovingly described as ‘the blue whale of public health’2, it will occupy just 6 cm of shelf space—a veritable Nimo. This fact, together with a price tag of £95 [as compared with £350 for the hardback], begins to bring this text into the realms of accessibility of normal mortals working in public health around the world, as well as specialist libraries, and those senior public health academics and other international authorities in the field, whose words adorn the pages of this book. This Textbook offers comprehensive and global coverage of the complex art and science of public health, though is perhaps stronger on the scientific than the artistic. There are illustrative case studies from many countries: developed and developing. To make good use of the book, the reader really needs to allow sufficient time to move from chapter to chapter and to savour all aspects of a chosen topic. For this reason, the single volume format has much to commend it—with the hardback version, you would be delving into all three books to be sure you had found all there is to find on a particular subject. However, with the paperback, all you need is plenty of time and a stack of those nice reusable sticky page markers to pick up every nugget on your chosen subject. You might like to try this out with a truly cross-cutting theme like health inequalities, which appears many times, in addition to the two chapters explicitly devoted to the subject. Each chapter is well referenced, which is very helpful for the practitioner who wants to delve further in the course of a busy job. This will no doubt also be valuable for trainees preparing dissertations. In addition to 1
Review of fourth edition in International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. 2 Review of fourth edition in Sociology of Health and Illness.
the references supplied, readers will recognise that, as prolific writers in their fields, the majority of the chapter authors can be relied upon to have published since the date of this book, so further web search will reap rewards for those who wish to follow a favourite writer’s output. Inevitably, it is impossible for any textbook to be completely up to date. This edition, the fourth, was originally produced in 2002 and has not been updated for this new paperback edition. So, it was of no surprise to find that there is no mention of SARS, for example. The term CBRN does not feature, either, despite an excellent chapter on Bioterrorism. Slightly more surprisingly, the chapter on people with learning disabilities is badged ‘mental retardation’—perhaps this is the term preferred in international circles, though I doubt it. And, among ‘special populations’ selected for individual chapters we find ‘Women’, but not (yet) Men. One subject that has shifted up the international public health agenda very rapidly in recent years is obesity. So while the book does give recognition to this issue, prevalence rates are well out of date and perhaps the next edition will expand on this critical topic for global health: or maybe we will have tackled it by then. Every public health facility should have a reference copy of this book. Where the department is small, only a few people will need it and one copy will suffice. People working in larger departments and those beginning to think of their next birthday or Christmas gift list would do well to get their own copy. The text is a good read for senior, experienced public health specialists, since everyone can be a lifelong learner and no-one can be expert in all the areas covered, as well as for trainees, who will, of course, also have their ‘Oxford Handbook’ in their pocket. For a free taster of the content, you can visit www. oup.co.uk where you will find the full chapter on Bioterrorism in pdf format. Fiona Sim The Royal Institute of Public Health, 28 Portland Place, London W1B 1DE, UK E-mail address: [email protected]
Received 31 March 2004 doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2004.05.004