A Bicultural Perspective on Health

By Perkins, Rod | Australian Health Review, May 2005 | Go to article overview

A Bicultural Perspective on Health


Perkins, Rod, Australian Health Review


A bicultural perspective on health Health and Society in Aotearoa New Zealand (Second edition) Kevin Dew and Peter Davis (editors) Oxford University Press, 2005 ISBN: 0 19558 469 4. RRP: $49.95 AUD

THE WAY PEOPLE THINK about health, ill-health and health services has changed enormously over the past 20 years in New Zealand. This book reviews these topics within a sociological frame. It is distinctly New Zealand and its contributions were written by academics. Dr Kevin Dew and Professor Peter Davis have edited a coherent text in which the contributors have taken the opportunity offered to give fresh insights into sometimes controversial subjects.

The second edition of this book continues the tradition of the first in providing the combined insights of academics located in public health schools and social science departments within well known New Zealand universities. As might be expected of a book such as this, it pays particular attention to the bicultural development of New Zealand and links this development to the health of New Zealand's indigenous people. The title of the book, Health and society in Aotearoa New Zealand, suggests that the text might be about more than health and society in a country colonised by British subjects. This is so and is commented on below.

The chapters are grouped in five parts. The first provides an overview of the field and discusses the way in which health or medical sociology is studied. It is in this first section that two Maori academics elaborate their "Maori health view" and challenge the reader to reflect upon it. They challenge many of the beliefs and values that are taken as given in contemporary New Zealand society

The second part is concerned with structure. Following an overview of social structure and its relationship to health, there is a chapter on the implications for health and health services of changing demographics. Aotearoa New Zealand, like other OECD countries, is facing new challenges that will require new strategies if they are to be addressed.

Part Three is about culture. The first contribution explores its meanings and successfully addresses the chapter heading "The culture of health and illness". This is followed by a discussion of the health of Pacific People. In the third chapter in this section of the book, Alzheimer's disease and dementia care are used for a case study of how formal and informal caring takes place in the community. Health professions and practice, traditional topics in medical sociology, are discussed in Part Four. This material naturally follows the earlier sections and further explores the importance of discourse and the power of those whose discourse is dominant. …

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