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Book Review   |    
Marie Hobart
Psychiatric Services 2009; doi:
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by Vikki L. Vandiver; New York, Oxford University Press, 2009, 416 pages, $49.95

Dr. Hobart is medical director of Community Healthlink, Inc., Worcester, Massachusetts.

As care providers move decidedly beyond symptom reduction as the goal of mental health treatment, it is clear that overall health and well-being are crucial for meaningful recovery from mental illness. We know that people with mental illness die at a much younger age than the general population and that this shortened life is often besieged by ill health. Issues such as nutrition, physical activity, avoiding addiction, promoting evidence-based treatment, obtaining and keeping a job, caring for children, maintaining safe and affordable housing, and dealing with health care and legal systems that stigmatize those with mental illness are just some of the many areas covered in this comprehensive volume.

Vikki L. Vandiver lays a framework that is both theoretical and practical for integrating health promotion throughout any system of mental health care. As a professor of social work, an associate professor of psychiatry, and vice-chair of the board of directors of a nonprofit community-based behavioral health care organization, she has the knowledge and expertise to speak to policy makers, academic institutions, and hands-on practitioners of all types. She is also highly focused on including consumer and family input in patient care. Throughout the book she moves freely from the individual and local health care system to state, national, and international strategies for addressing health promotion.

The book is well organized, starting with an overview to lay out the intention and content of each section. The author moves logically from definitions and the evidence base for health promotion to the practicalities of how this information can be used in assessments, interventions, and the evaluation of outcomes. Along the way she gives both historical and current perspectives on how various types of mental health theory can be interpreted and adapted for health promotion. She gives special attention to women and to the needs of children and families. In the final section she addresses readiness for organizational change and how to overcome pitfalls that are inevitable when attempting a comprehensive culture shift. She focuses in particular on cultural competence and ways to engage all ethnic groups as well as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. In addition, each chapter starts with learning objectives clearly spelled out and systematically reviewed. Lest we stray too far from the purpose of any of this work, she begins and ends each chapter with quotes from individuals or family members who participated in focus groups convened specifically for this book.

Vandiver provides helpful examples of health promotion questions that can be incorporated into evaluations and treatment plans. Her broad scope and sometimes difficult-to-read diagrams can be a bit overwhelming at times, but these are minor considerations. I would highly recommend this book to those in leadership positions within community mental health centers, state and local governments, and academic departments that have the opportunity both to shape clinical practice and to study the process and outcomes of implementing health promotion.

The reviewer reports no competing interests.




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