Book Review

Medical manual for religio-cultural competence: caring for religiously diverse populations. Tanenbaum center for religiously diverse populations. New York, New York 2009.

Reviewed by Howard Spiro, M.D. (

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This very useful book will prove a great help in the office of medical caretakers who practice where diversity has become the rule. Given the surprisingly ubiquitous location of many immigrants, a copy will probably be well-thumbed almost anywhere.

The discussions in this 228 page manual run the gamut from Judaism and Christianity to Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Shinto, traditional Chinese, American Indian and Alaskan native, and Afro-Caribbean traditions.

Each chapter has much the same format: an overview of sacred texts and beliefs, a summary of religious practices and holidays, and a full discussion of how religious beliefs affect health care for the individual believer. I found everything that I needed to know within each chapter.

I could not find an entry for agnostics or atheists, but there is no index.  More to the point, since religious belief does depend, in many ways, upon some accepted source or authority, in subsequent editions those responsible for the conclusions should receive some recognition. Anonymity does  not bring confidence.  It would be comforting to know that the discussions, all of which gave me a good summary, are authentic. References are given following each chapter, and happily, the Internet was not ignored.

Tanenbaum describes itself as "a secular, non-sectarian non-profit that provides practical resources and trainings to help people live and work respectfully in a religiously plural society”.  I am happy to tell you that you can get in touch with them at


Published: January 4, 2012