SAMJ 6812

Book Review

Handbook of Family Medicine

Ed. by Bob Mash, 35 contributors. 3rd ed. Cape Town: Oxford University Press Southern Africa. 2011. R434.95. ISBN 97801959998177.

This book contains much useful information, although its chapters are somewhat uneven. Its title is misleading, as it covers a much broader field than ‘family medicine’: several excellent chapters also deal with primary care, clinics and community-based care. While the foreword welcomes ‘the case studies in this book, based on real people’, I found them distracting, as were some of the suggested exercises.

It is ironic that chapter 13 on ‘Continuing professional development’, which deals so thoroughly with ‘Evidence-based health care’, is followed by the final and new chapter on ‘Integrative medicine’ that ‘seeks to combine the very best of conventional, complementary, alternative and traditional medicine’. As a former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine observed, ‘There are not two kinds of medicine, one conventional and the other unconventional, that can be practiced jointly in a new kind of “integrative medicine.” In the best kind of medical practice, all proposed treatments must be tested objectively. In the end, there will only be treatments that pass that test and those that do not, those that are proven worthwhile and those that are not. Can there be any reasonable “alternative”?’

Despite these quibbles, which should be addressed in future editions, this remains a valuable and must-have book for family medicine practitioners, and other primary care or general practitioners.

J P van Niekerk

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