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In modern medicine patient education has become a very important and expected method of patient care. People are more interested than ever before in the cause and management of their problems, and for this reason access to information in an easy-to-follow presentation is very beneficial. Furthermore, patients need and deserve the best possible access to information about their health. The material presented in this book is not intended to be used as an alternative to the verbal explanations given by the doctor during the consultation but as complementary information to be taken home. Experience has shown that better understanding of a problem or potential health problem leads to better cooperation and compliance with treatment.

The author has produced patient education information to fit onto one sheet, which can be handed to the patient or person seeking health information. Medical practitioners often refer to this information as ‘doctor education’ as well as ‘patient education’. Such practitioners are invited to use this information for a variety of purposes, such as a basis for their own patient education or for computer information programs. These sheets should have considerable value in undergraduate courses for doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

The catalyst for the initial production of this material came from two sources. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, through its official publication Australian Family Physician (AFP), encouraged the author to write patient education material as a service to general practitioners and their patients. The strategy was to present information on the most common problems presenting to general practitioners, each on a single A4 sheet and in the lay person’s language. Another strategy is to include simple line diagrams wherever possible to reinforce an understanding of the condition covered in the single page. Patient education sheets have been a feature of monthly publications of AFP since 1979, and doctors have ordered them in vast quantities. This concept has also been promoted by Australian Doctor, which commissioned the author to write a series of patient education information in that popular publication. We have not simply featured illnesses, but have also included preventive advice and health promotion wherever possible.

The other impetus for this project came from the members of the Monash University Department of Community Medicine and General Practice, who realised the importance of this material for the education of medical students. Apart from providing valuable learning material for the students, it gave them the basis for illness and preventive advice to patients during the consulting skills learning program.

Following a rather subdued response to the initial production of material in AFP, it is interesting to now discover that since the launch of the first edition of Patient Education the use of this material is rising very rapidly. It is now a much requested inclusion in computer programs for doctors and is blossoming on the Internet. It has also been included in the software of the practice management programs for general practitioners—Best Practice and Medical Director. These trends reinforce the perceived value of this form of health education. The information in each subject has been updated, based on best evidence, with each new edition. For this eighth edition we welcome the input of Dr Lucas Wheatley as Associate Editor. Lucas has reviewed the editorial content of the book and his learned input has been most valued.

The author believes that the subject matter in this book covers common everyday problems encountered by doctors and hopes that the dissemination of this information will benefit both health care providers and people who are interested in their health.

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