Book review: Sport and physical activity: the role of health promotion


Sport and physical activity: the role of health promotion
Edited by J Merchant, BL Griffin, A Charnock.
Presentation: 17/20
Comprehensiveness: 14/20
Readability: 18/20
Relevance: 14/20
Evidence basis: 16/20

Sport and Physical Activity: The Role of Health Promotion is aimed at students of the discipline but also at a wider readership interested in this popular topic. Clearly health promotion and physical activity is a hot topic given the level of media attention, and government and private sector activity worldwide. The contributors are drawn mainly from British institutions (in particular the University of Sunderland) in collaboration with several international experts. Together they provide a well-balanced text combining academic theory, case studies and examples, and some basic advice for practitioners.

The editors have divided the book’s chapters into four sections – Introduction to Health Promotion and Sport and Physical Activity, Health of the Individual, Health of Communities, and Health of Society. These headings are perhaps a little misleading, as the reader frequently finds topics discussed in unexpected places. Predictable key topics are discussed (health promotion in relation to age, social class, disability and ethnicity, drugs, motivation and psychology of health promotion) as well as some unexpected but interesting areas (introductions to research and evaluation approaches in health promotion, and planning and project management). Some areas which might have been covered in more detail include: gender issues in health promotion (which is discussed in relation to physical activity in schools, but not adult participation); religious barriers to participation in physical activity; and future challenges and approaches in health promotion.

The book’s last chapter is a useful one, a case-study analysis of Australian approaches to the funding of both elite and mass participation sport. This discussion of philosophies and ethos of governmental policies is important reading for all students of the area. Significantly, this chapter takes a more analytical approach than several others, where the authors outline and discuss theories without critical analysis. A further criticism is that, although Zofia Pawlaczek provides a thorough discussion of the different roles of sport and physical activity, the boundaries of the two terms are frequently blurred outside this chapter. The focus throughout the book is on the physical health benefits of sport and activity, with little mention of the emotional and mental health benefits.

The editors’ statement of “comprehensive insight” is perhaps a little ambitious, but this textbook is indeed “student friendly”. It is an accessible text for the novice, and the chapters are well referenced with plenty of ideas for other source material. Many of the contributors make good use of case studies and examples of health promotion policies and practices. Other likeable aspects include a comprehensive introduction outlining the structure and aims of the book, a thorough discussion of the importance of beginning health promotion in childhood, and a detailed summary of the physiological effects and benefits of physical activity. The latter information should be particularly useful for those
with a sociological rather than biomedical science background.

Sport and Physical Activity: The Role of Health Promotion is a very accessible text for the general reader – this in itself may suggest that it is too basic for an advanced student or practitioner. However, the text should prove useful as an initial point of reference, and may also interest those in areas allied to health promotion such as teaching, nursing and community development.

Reviewed by Ciara O’Hagan
Department of Physiology,
Australian Institute of Sport, Australia

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