Society, culture and health: An introduction to sociology for nurses.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Nicholls, David
Pub Date: 03/01/2009
Publication: Name: New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy Publisher: New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 New Zealand Society of Physiotherapists ISSN: 0303-7193
Issue: Date: March, 2009 Source Volume: 37 Source Issue: 1
Topic: NamedWork: Society, Culture and Health: An Introduction to Sociology for Nurses (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Willis, K.; Elmer, S.
Accession Number: 207945612
Full Text: Society, culture and health: An introduction to sociology for nurses. K. Willis, and S. Elmer, 2007. Oxford University Press, South Melbourne. ISBN 978-0-19-555907-1. AUD 59.95

Physiotherapy is no more immune to the changes taking place within western health care than any of the other orthodox or complementary health professions, but it has been remarkably slow to embrace some of the theoretical work that has informed medicine, nursing, occupational therapy and psychology in recent decades. Not surprisingly then, we have to look outside the profession for critical analyses of health care sociology that might have relevance to our practice and make what we can of the analyses that they offer. This is made harder by the fact that health sociology is dominated by European and American literature and with few exceptions (Germov's superb 'Second Opinion', and Dew and Kirkman's 'Sociology of Health' being exceptions that prove the rule) there are few books that focus on antipodean issues. Willis and Elmer's text 'Society, culture and health' is a very welcome addition to a small, but growing body of work.

The text is designed for nurses, but would be perfectly suitable for undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students. It covers four main domains: the different approaches to understanding health; social structures that govern health care; experiencing health and illness; and working in health. In doing so, the authors offer insights from some of the major sociological approaches to health; including structuralist (mainly Marxist and feminist), phenomenological, and social constructivist perspectives.

The text concentrates almost exclusively on the Australian health care experience and gratifyingly gives considerable weight to contemporary concerns for health practitioners and consumers alike; the health of aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, aged care, media constructions of health, and complementary therapies. But these sections are also only a small part of a larger project to encourage the reader to 'think' sociologically; something that will become increasingly important for physiotherapists in the coming years.

The book draws on some of the classic questions in health sociology--questions that have been addressed extensively elsewhere; what are the social patterns of health and illness? Whose interests are served by contemporary health care and whose interests are marginalised? What is the future for the professions? How might illness be understood as a lived experience, for example? But in framing these within a wide body of reading relevant to populations very familiar to us in New Zealand, the authors have produced a highly readable book that is absolutely up-to-date. Many of the examples are immediately relevant: the discussion on Herceptin, questions of the role of information and communication technology in health care, and domestic violence, come immediately to mind.

The book is superbly written and very accessible. It is illustrated with poignant and thought-provoking examples and covers a vast breadth of material with style and clarity. This book is an absolute must for undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students and will be an indispensable introduction to a field in which we have been slow to adopt, but will be increasingly important in the coming years.

David Nicholls

School of Physiotherapy

AUT University
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.