Cecil G.HELMAN, Culture, Health and Illness

Second edition, Butterworth-Heinemann Ltd, Oxford, 1990 (first edition John Wright and Sons Ldt, 1984)

Cecil G. Helman MB, ChB, Dip. Soc. Anthrop., MRCGP Associate Professor, Department of Human Sciences, Brunel University ; Senior Lecturer, Department of Primary Health Care, University College and Middlesex School of Medicine ; Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University College, London.

Culture, Health and Illness is an introduction to the role of cultural and social factors in health and disease, showing how an understanding of these factors can improve medical care and health education. The book demonstrates how different cultural, social or ethnic groups explain the causes of ill health, the types of treatments they believe in, and to whom they would turn if they were ill. It discusses the relationship of these beliefs and practices to the instance of certain diseases, both physical and psychological.

The first edition was widely acclaimed as a highly readable text for a wide range of health professionals from general practitioners, community physicians, psychiatrists, nurses and health visitors to medical anthropologists, nutritionists and medical students.

For this new edition, Cecil Helman has updated and expanded the text : the additional material reflects the expansion of research into cultural issues and the steady growth of interest in medical anthropology.

Key features are the inclusion of a new chapter on gender, reproduction and childbirth ; extended discussion on psychosomatic and culture-bound disorders, and the relationship between family dynamics and culture ; an introduction to the cultural dimension of AIDS, and summaries on recent work on the cultural differences of various health systems. Existing chapters have been revised to maintain the orientation of the book towards applied medical anthropology ; throughout the text its relevance to health and illness and to the delivery of health care is illustrated.

Contents : Introduction the scope of medical anthropology – Cultural definitions of anatomy and physiology – Diet and nutrition – Caring and curing : the sectors of health care – Doctor-patient interactions – Gender and reproduction – Pain and culture – Culture and pharmacology – Ritual and the management of misfortune – Cross cultural psychiatry – Cultural aspects of stress – Cultural factors in epidemiology – Appendix : clinical questionnaires – References.

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