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Terrorism and Public Health. A balanced approach to strengthening systems and protecting people. 2nd Edition

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Title: Terrorism and Public Health. A balanced approach to strengthening systems and protecting people. (2nd Ed.)

Edited by: Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel

Publisher: Oxford University Press, 2012

Reviewer: Martyn Tee, independent trainer for Health & Social Care



This is a readable text that approaches terrorism as a multi-faceted issue requiring a multi-disciplinary response. The roots, history and definitions (there are more than you may think) of terrorism are examined, as is the terrorist himself (he is likely to be male, well-educated, middle class and no more religious than the average population). In addition to a complete reorganisation and revision of the information contained within the first edition, this book explores emergency preparedness in depth and includes a detailed analysis of the public health issues raised by the war on terror. It is laid out in six parts, with self-explanatory titles that would allow the reader to “dip in” to chapters of particular interest, but I would argue that this is a book to read, rather than to refer to. There are critiques of responses to terrorist attacks around the world from international contributors. Although the latter sections of the book tend to focus attention on the difficulties and shortcomings of the response to terror within the United States, the pitfalls highlighted should probably serve as a warning to any country attempting to respond to a major act of terrorism.



The highlights for me were the critiques of the response to attacks outside the United States, and the examination of the role that healthcare professionals – not just those who would consider themselves public health workers – can play in the prevention and mitigation of terrorist acts.

List strengths and weaknesses:

The strengths of this book are its readability and engaging nature. While it does not make light of a serious topic, it does present the material in a well-structured and easily digestible manner. It also provides some key questions for debate, as the contributors do not shy away from criticising responses from governments and organisations involved in the response to terror. It is a pity, however, that the type-face is rather small. Some of the chapters deal in depth with US policy, which may not be of great interest to UK readers.

Potential Readers:

Anyone with an interest in the topic. However it is likely to be of most interest to those who may find themselves on the front line of planning or carrying out a response to terrorist acts.


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