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Edited by David Hall, David Elliman. Oxford: Published by Oxford University Press, 2006, £21.95 (paperback), pp 422.
This 400‐page volume has proved quite a difficult book to review. The ‘Health for all children' books are a cornerstone of child health practice when considering broad populations of children. The publication of each edition is keenly awaited and goes on to influence both the organisation and prosecution of child health services throughout the UK and beyond. This revision of the fourth edition is due to the publication of several important documents concerning the health and welfare of children in the UK, namely the National service framework for children and Every child matters. Emerging data from SureStart programmes are also starting to shape the future direction of health and surveillance services for children.
The book follows the familiar layout of previous publications, whereby the opening chapters set out the fundamental concepts underlying preventive child health programmes and summarises the evidence for child health promotion in its widest sense (promoting optimal child development and promoting/supporting parenting) before later chapters explore more specific areas of screening (primary and secondary)—for example, in respect of iron deficiency anaemia and hearing deficits. The revised edition benefits from modern, up‐to‐date formatting and is easier to read than the original.
Those who have read previous editions of the book will be aware that large working groups contribute to each chapter. However in this revised edition, Hall and Elliman have taken the task of updating the various chapters on themselves. The end result is a book which although looking updated, feels very much like the original fourth edition. In fact, astute and keen followers of the H4AC website will recognise that the revised components of the book are available online, so the revised edition avoids them having to cut and paste this information themselves. Unfortunately, this has led to some pagination issues—for example, the executive summary recommends a screening programme said to be detailed on page 351 of the book. However, the table is on page 351 of the original fourth edition and page 341 of the revised edition. These irritations should not detract from an appreciation of what is an immense work of scholarship that in a concise volume appraises a wide variety of child and family focused interventions from a scientific, sociological and probably a political perspective.
I think that many paediatricians involved with child public health, community‐based work and child health promotion will already have the fourth edition, and so the question is obviously whether purchase of this revised edition is warranted. For those trainees and other first‐time buyers wishing to gain an insight into these aspects of child public health this book will be invaluable and I recommend it without hesitation. It is also highly recommended for those aficionados who have the original fourth edition but do not have access to the Health for all children website. However, for those who remain up to date with these issues the decision to upgrade to this revised edition lies in equipoise. The book's reasonable price may well tip the balance.
It remains my enduring hope that the increased accessibility of the revised edition will tempt those in positions of influence in primary care organisations and local authorities to read it and to commit to adequately funding the implementation of its sensible, soundly researched and well‐reasoned recommendations.recommendations.