Health Promotion in Medical Education: from rhetoric to action

Edited By Ann Wylie and Tangerine Holt , Published by Radcliffe Publishing Ltd , Oxford UK 2010 , 314 pages , Paperback , ISBN-13 978 184619 292 0 , RRP A$89

Reviewed by Lisa Amir

Mother & Child Health Research, La Trobe University, Victoria

This is not a health promotion textbook, but a medical education textbook focused on health promotion. Health promotion content varies widely in medical courses, from minimal content in traditional courses to a strong focus in some universities. It may be offered as a ‘vertical’ theme taught opportunistically throughout the course, or as one or more stand-alone modules. This book argues that all doctors need a background in health promotion to fulfil their role in the community.

The editors have experience in teaching health promotion within medical curricula; Ann Wylie is based at Kings College London and Tangerine Holt at Monash University, Melbourne. In addition to the UK and Australia, chapter authors and contributors work in a number of other countries, including Germany, Hong Kong, and the US. A short biography is provided for each contributor, but qualifications are missing; at times, I would have found it helpful to be able to identify whether an author had a medical background or not.

Craig Hassad gives a substantial contribution by presenting the health promotion aspects of the Monash Medical course in detail. All students develop a health promotion project which is embedded within community placements. Health promotion teaching and learning through community collaborations is described as analogous to medical student placements in clinical education. The Monash University course was held up as an excellent example of teaching students how to think as well as giving them the opportunity to learn about health promotion in a practical manner.

Several chapters focus on assessment, stressing that “assessment drives learning”. The quote by Swanson and Case (1997) is apt: “Grab the student by the tests and their hearts and minds will follow.” Medical educators will find this section helpful in considering different ways to measure students’ competence.

Most of the book was suitable for an international audience, in particular an Australian audience, but some chapters were jarringly UK-focused. For instance, the concluding chapter refers to the situation in “many overseas countries”.

Amanda Howe, Professor of Primary Care, University of East Anglia, Norwich exclaims in the foreword: “Do not fear another dry discussion about how to stop patients smoking!” She is correct in indicating that this is not a ‘how to’ book about health promotion – but this reader was well and truly tired of the recurring theme of smoking cessation. Eventually other examples appeared, such as obesity prevention, the SARS outbreak and – finally on p. 228 – my favourite: breastfeeding promotion.

I would recommend this book to anyone planning or teaching health promotion to medical students; it could also be useful for those teaching health promotion other in other courses as well.