ASHA Book Review: Sexual Health – A Multidisciplinary Approach

Sexual Health A Multidisciplinary ApproachEdited by A/Prof. Meredith Temple-Smith

Review by Dr Lynnette Wray MBBS (Hons1) MM (VenSci), FAChSHM, President Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine

This new book is a sequel to and an expansion of the original book Sexual Health: An Australian Perspective which was first published in 2005 and gave us for the first time in Australia, a book which covered the broader concepts of sexual health, by focusing on a bio-psychosocial approach, rather than a disease and diagnosis focused text.

As with the initial book, experts in the field of sexual health in Australia have written about their areas of special interest and so whilst there are chapters about sexually transmissible infections, sexual dysfunction and contraceptive options, the book castes a much broader scope and includes exceptional chapters on the legal aspects of sexual health practice, public health and preventive health.

The chapters on sexual health in specific populations give a valuable insight into the needs of adolescents, indigenous sexual health, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and also include older adults, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, with a particular reference to the needs of refugees. These chapters also point to some of the areas of greatest lack of appropriate services, as well as focusing on particularly vulnerable and marginalised populations by including people living with a disability, people in prison, homeless youth and sex workers.

The book is organised into five sections which leads the reader through a wide range of concepts that are equally important to the clinician, researcher or educator. The overview of sexual health in Australia today is highlighted by the results gleaned from the second Australian Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR) which gives us an insight into the attitudes of 20 094 respondents aged 16-69 years into a range of sexually-related questions and the attitudes of individuals about sex and also the social context in which these beliefs play out and are evolving over time. This chapter highlights the importance of research in underpinning our work in sexual health and our assessments of how effective are our efforts to improve sexual health and community knowledge.

Part 2 discusses the biology of sex and expands on this area by tackling the underlying cultural and psychological frameworks that influence sexual behaviours. Part 3 deals with the more clinically focused aspects of sexual health by discussing the sexual health consultation, STIs and reproductive health care. This chapter aims to improve the competency of clinicians to take sexual histories from their patients and to allow their patients to feel comfortable to discuss sexual issues openly as part of their general health care. The chapter on legal and ethical issues is of great use to clinicians dealing with concerns about patient confidentiality and also the public health needs of the community. Part 4 expands further on these areas by looking at the needs and experiences of marginalised populations and Part 5 addresses the importance of education and health promotion in holistic sexual health practice.

This book is well-written and easy to read as the chapters flow well but it is also designed to be able to dip in and out of key topic areas of interest to the reader. It is a valuable addition to the references available to be used by practicing clinicians in the fields of nursing, medicine, public health, health promotion and sexology, as well as those studying in the field of sexual health.

Dr Lynnette Wray MBBS (Hons1) MM (VenSci), FAChSHM

President Australasian Chapter of Sexual Health Medicine