Race and childbirth By Savita Katbamna Open University Press 157 pages £18. 99 paperback

It would take a great deal of practical experience and cultural sensitivity for most practitioners to acquire the insight offered in this book.

There is an explanation of what pregnancy and childbirth mean to two very different groups from South Asia - Gujarati Hindu and Bangladeshi Muslim women - living in Britain.

The study starts in the last three months of pregnancy and finishes six weeks after the birth. Many aspects of care are considered, including the women's brief postnatal stays in hospital - with which both groups were dissatisfied, having found it difficult to understand why they were not getting as much attention from the medical staff once their babies had been born (during their pregnancy they had been treated as if they were ill).

Bangladeshi women in particular found this confusing as they were expecting the same care and attention they were accustomed to receiving from their female relatives.

Gujarati women commonly had female relatives at home to support them, while the Bangladeshi women had fragmented family structures following their migration to Britain, and frequently suffered isolation.

No two women from South Asia should be treated the same, the book suggests. Doubtless, all practitioners would agree.

Indeed, they would counter that no two women from anywhere should be treated the same.

Having accepted that, the problem persists in turning theory-espoused into theory-in practice, especially when the planning of care contains the additional challenge of an unfamiliar culture.

There are several messages for managers and policy makers in this book. The fact that some Asian women recently settled in Britain struggle to gain access to health services is an issue that needs to be addressed.

So, too, does the lack of knowledge and understanding among health professionals of the different backgrounds of ethnic minority women and their cultural requirements. Also, some way of emphasising the unacceptability of covert racism and of making equal opportunities a reality needs to be found.

These are easy words to say. In many areas systems are in place to address these issues, but it seems that a wider social and political will is required.

There is an interesting passage explaining why at a time when there is general concern about the power of health professionals over women's bodies, Asian women are not expressing similar concerns.

It is said that a way of coping with the stress of racist attitudes is to accept the medical model and reject traditional practices.

The book tells us that the women were often worried about attracting derogatory comments from healthcare professionals if they observed traditional diets, remedies or rituals.

This isn't a resource-related issue - it is about attitudes. And although education and knowledge are important, they clearly aren't enough.

Overall, the book is up-to-date and well-referenced and is a valuable educational resource.

I would recommend it to any practitioner who needs to enhance their awareness of the needs of women from these client groups or has a general interest in the childbirth experiences of women from ethnic minorities.