Review Blog

Dec 15 2011

Health edited by Helen Sykes

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Future Leaders, 2011. ISBN 9780980332056.
(Age 15+) Once again Dr Helen Sykes, of the Future leaders program, has assembled contributions from experts and young writers to produce a thought-provoking book. This year's theme is global health with an underlying message of social justice. Two of the commentators - Gustav Nossal and Fiona Stanley - have high public profiles. All have impressive qualifications as well as experience in research and the education of medical practitioners. Some serve on advisory boards and raise community awareness of health issues.
Gustav Nossal's overview of major challenges is followed by articles on subjects related to three aspects of healthcare. The first is the campaign to reduce the impact of chronic and infectious diseases. The second concerns the problems common to members of specific sectors of society including children, adolescents, the elderly and people in Indigenous and rural communities. The third is the need to reassess the education of doctors, the implications of climate change and the priorities of health systems in the 21st century.
The writing of all of the contributors has an academic stamp. They present balanced arguments supported by documented evidence, an approach which enables them to provide considered and authoritative assessments of controversial issues, such as anti-vaccine activism. Some of the writers are more aware than others of the need to define medical terms and use subheadings to make complex subjects accessible to lay readers.
All but one of the younger writers, have harnessed the power of fiction to highlight the emotional cost of health issues. The results are a moving counter-balance to the carefully considered scientific arguments of the experts. A lone philosophical essay examines the role of the emotions in ethical decision-making.
Health combines the wisdom of current leaders with the remarkable intelligence and maturity of those to come. It is not always easy to read but anyone willing to make the effort will not only be rewarded with insights into some of humanity's most pressing problems but may also be convinced of the need to provide existing solutions to the millions who need them.
Elizabeth Bor

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