The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine
2nd Edition
by Elisa J. Sobo and Martha O. Loustaunau
August 2010, 268pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-37760-0
$55, £43, 48€, A76
Paperback: 978-0-313-37785-3
$35, £27, 31€, A48
eBook Available: 978-0-313-37761-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

America is truly a world civilization, home to billions of immigrants from all around the globe. We came first by land, then sea, and now air as well, bringing with us a diversity of cultural traditions. What are the ramifications of this for the way we deliver health care?

A "one size fits all" approach to health care doesn't work well, especially for America's extremely diverse population. This book provides a lively and accessible discussion of how and why a more flexible and culturally sensitive system of health care can—and must be—achieved.

Notable anthropologist George Foster defined the first edition as “a very readable introductory text dealing with the sociocultural aspects of health,” adding: “[T]he authors do a commendable job… . I have profited from reading The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine“. With engaging examples, minimal jargon, and updated scholarship, the second edition of The Cultural Context of Health, Illness, and Medicine offers a comprehensive guide to the practice of culturally sensitive health care. Readers will see America’s biomedically dominated health care system in a new light as the book reveals the changes wrought by increasing cultural diversity, technological innovation, and developments in care delivery.

Written by a sociologist and an anthropologist with direct, hands-on experience in the health services, the volume tracks culture’s influence on and relationship to health, illness, and health-care delivery via an examination of social structure, medical systems, and the need for—and challenges to—culturally sensitive care. Cultural differences are situated against social-class differences and related health inequities, as well as different needs and challenges throughout the life course. In prescribing caring that is more holistic, culturally sensitive, and cost-effective, the work promotes awareness of pressing issues for health care professionals—and the people they serve.


  • More than 30 percent new material updates the 1997 edition, reflecting new scholarship and addressing emerging needs
  • Multiple real-life examples and case studies illustrate and explain concepts
  • Discussion questions follow each chapter and an appendix with project suggestions is provided
  • A bibliography offers suggestions for further reading
Elisa J. Sobo, PhD, professor of anthropology at San Diego State University, began her career as a specialist in Caribbean health traditions. That work led to involvement in HIV/AIDS research, nutrition studies, and, most recently, healthcare quality improvement. Sobo's most recent book, Culture and Meaning in Health Services Research: A Practical Field Guide, combines ethnographic insight with methodological instruction and instructional examples from real health services improvement projects. An internationally recognized scholar, Sobo has served on the board of the Society for Medical Anthropology and on various journals' editorial boards. In addition to her work in academia, Sobo has worked directly in healthcare, including as an employee of Children's Hospital San Diego and with the Veteran's Healthcare Administration.

Martha O. Loustaunau, PhD, professor emerita of the Department of Sociology at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, continues to teach online courses in multicultural health care, medical ethics, and aging, at New Mexico State. Among her publications is the coedited volume, Life, Death, and In Between on the US-Mexico Border. In addition to teaching and research and publication in academia, Loustaunau has worked directly in healthcare policy and administration; she served with the New Mexico Health Systems Agency for 10 years and was chair of the State Health Planning Committee and Governing Body. She also served for several years with New Mexico Health Decisions, dealing with medical-ethical problems, and the Area Health Education Committee (AHEC) which supervises and awards grants for health education projects.


“Sobo and Loustaunau have done a splendid job in providing a concise, engaging, informative, and very readable introduction to the fields of medical anthropology and medical sociology. A successful synthesis of socio-behavioral science, health services, and public health knowledge which advances the field and should help to improve the quality of care and health outcomes experienced by our increasingly diverse population. This is a valuable text that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend for use in undergraduate courses; medical, nursing, and public health schools; and other health professions training programs that are interested in transformative education that makes a difference.” —Robert C. Like, MD, MS, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

"This is a comprehensive book focused on relevant factors that influence health, illness, and well-being from multi-discipline perspectives. It is a unique book to provide health leaders and consumers refreshing new ways to know and understand cultures. It is an essential book to serve cultures in creative and effective ways. The authors provide new and diverse cultural insights about health, illness and wellness that have been woefully missing until the advent of transcultural nursing."—Dr. Madeleine Leininger, Founder of Transcultural Nursing and Leader in Culture Care Theory and Research, Professor of Nursing Emeritus, College of Nursing, Wayne State University, and author of 36 books including Culture Care Diversity and Universality Theory and Two Worlds to Blend
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