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Evidence-based public health
  1. Milos Jenicek
  1. McMaster University, Canada

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    R C Brownson, E A Baker, T I Leet, K N Gillespie. (Pp 235; $C69.95). Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2003. ISBN 0-19-514376-0

    Within the recent outburst of “evidence-based” books covering now many medical specialties, this book is another welcome newcomer. Authors have chosen rightly for this first evidence-based public health (EBPH) book a methodological introduction, rather than the evidence-based coverage of particular problems in public health.

    The message addresses a large readership with many recalls to basic notions from epidemiology, biostatistics, and other foundations of EBPH. This is wise, because many partners in public health are not health professionals. However, this coverage does not replace other ad hoc sources. “Boxes” in the text contain rather pinpoint practical examples than more complete case studies of public health programmes or research studies.

    Nine chapters of this book follow various steps of health programme formulation—elaboration—implementation—evaluation. Many readers might be interested in the evidence-based coverage of specific public health problems in their entirety. Look elsewhere. Books on evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention are already on the market. Books on evidence-based health protection (environmental and occupational health, mental and social wellbeing, and others) will probably follow. As for disease prevention, only the US Guide to Preventive Services is quoted here. It narrows the international appeal of this writing. By the way, years of work of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health Examination and the ensuing Canadian guide to clinical preventive health care were the first and an impetus to its US equivalent. EBPH is presented here as a unifying concept instead of explaining specific streams of thought just in the English speaking world of Canada, USA, Australia, and Great Britain today.

    Weaknesses? Despite rich practical examples and illustrations provided by authors, the typesetter succeeded in producing a visually unattractive book (to put it mildly). Pages are crammed; a good number of valuable information is lost in a rather visually amorphous flood of message, forcing the reader to read very carefully in his or her search for essentials among fillers.

    Competing titles? None for the moment. Recommended? Yes, warmly. Especially given the most challenging task to write a premiére in any domain of interest. The floodgate is open.