THE HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL HEALTH LETTER BOOK by

THE HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL HEALTH LETTER BOOK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Edited and updated reports from the first five years (1975-80) of the Harvard Medical School Health Letter, offering straightforward, conservative views on an eclectic round-up of subjects: Staying Healthy (exercise, nutrition, summer/winter safety), Hazards of Living (smoking, colds), Reproduction and Child Care (amniocentesis, learning disabilities), Diseases Mainly of Adulthood (blood clots, epilepsy), Some Problems of Aging (prostate ailments, senility), and You and the Doctor. (ghost surgery, dying). The general tenor is to lay down the law, then hedge just in case: e.g., ""most of the claims made for vitamin E are either excessive or false. However, much remains to be learned about this vitamin and there is enough suggestive evidence for some benefits to merit further research."" Highlights are on the order of new attention to marijuana as a cause of potential health problems, or the individualization of breast cancer therapy. Alternative therapies rarely enter in: the hospice philosophy, for instance, is identified with ""a bias against hospital care that may narrow options prematurely."" Most useful is the recommended approach to the current deluge of health information: to evaluate new therapies and claims, ask 1) if the evidence has gone beyond personal observation to stand the test of criticism by other scientists; 2) if the claim of effectiveness is in comparison to other treatments, or only to no treatment at all; and 3) what the claims of safety are in comparison to. There and elsewhere, one finds sound advice; but the average reader will be better off with books of broader scope for overall guidance, and with James Wasco's Not for Doctors Only (1980) for the latest in medical developments.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press