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Managing Your Health

SURVIVING MODERN MEDICINE: How to Get the Best From Doctors, Family and Friends by Peter Clarke and Susan H. Evans, Rutgers University Press, $38; 256 pages

November 16, 1998|SHARI ROAN

Of the many health books that attempt to guide consumers through the specifics of a particular disease, few may be as helpful as this overall guide to navigating today's complicated health care system.

Peter Clarke is a professor of preventive medicine at USC School of Medicine and of communication at the Annenberg School of Communication. Susan Evans is a research scientist at the USC School of Medicine's Institute for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. They are longtime observers of the health field and advocates of sound consumer health policies. And they've combined their talents to show consumers how to use the medical system intelligently.

The authors cite five critical areas for consumers to focus on to get good care: getting your doctor to pay attention, making the best medical decisions, seeking the right kind of support from family and friends, appreciating your caregiver and protecting your choices in critical-care situations. The crux of their message is on the lack of communication skills that often keeps us from getting what we need and deserve from our health care providers and caregivers. While the strong self-help movement of the past two decades has given the impression that Americans know how to get what they want, the authors argue a position that is counterintuitive:

"Anxiety, timidity and resignation have replaced the confidence that people used to have when dealing with their own health care," they write.

They go on to explain that people need to learn to manage health care in the same way that they learn to manage their money, their children's development and other forces in their lives. The book is both practical and yet deeply psychological in urging readers to look at their own decisions, emotions, thought patterns and habits. It requires deliberate and thoughtful reading.

ALL ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL: The Complete Guide

Planned Parenthood

Three Rivers Press

$12; 240 pages

This small paperback is a rich guide to the details of virtually all contraceptive choices available to Americans. This is Planned Parenthood's third book that focuses on health and sexuality issues. Despite the organization's obvious support of contraception, the material is presented with regard to individual religious or moral beliefs. Essentially, each type of birth control is presented with a listing of the pros and cons. One particularly helpful chapter addresses the question of how to choose the right contraception for yourself. This would be a good guide for anyone choosing birth control for the first time or considering a new method.

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