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- Author: Jane Hand x
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This chapter examines the use of visual images to promote healthy eating as a tool of disease prevention in British health education during the 1970s and 1980s. It analyses the activities of the HEC, and especially its poster output, in reorienting nutrition as a major part of its activities, and simultaneously highlights the role of public information films and commercial television in providing ancillary educative content through the documentary format. Though representing only a fraction of the filmic and poster material produced on nutrition and disease at this time, these examples reveal how scientific knowledge about dietetics and disease causation were entangled in a range of cultural and representational practices focused on tropes of gender, body image and the ‘cult’ of slimming. By coding disease risk in terms of particular visual attributes and specific practical preventive measures, these images functioned to express and articulate specific health ideologies. These ideologies promoted the idea that individualised health risks, often visualised through the obese body, could be overcome (at least in part) by complying with a myriad of health advice that together would construct individual balanced good health.
This chapter uses the launch of low-fat milk as a case study to argue for the role the food industry played in reconceptualising the public as health consumers. It explores how diets, particularly low-fat diets, became reworked to create a popular understanding that preventive health can be bought on the high street. It demonstrates how government–industry cooperation enabled health education messages to be more effectively transmitted within a consumerist context, part of a rise in voluntary efforts the food industry was making to maintain their influential role within governmental policy-making. It examines what it means to buy health in the 1980s and 1990s and seeks to better understand how this corresponds (or not) to governmental priorities around heart disease prevention. It emphasises how the public was identified as gendered consumers and assesses what this focus means for historical understandings of public health more broadly during this time period.
The National Health Service (NHS) officially ‘opened’ across Britain in 1948. It replaced a patchy system of charity and local providers, and made healthcare free at the point of use. Over the subsequent decades, the NHS was vested with cultural meaning, and even love. By 1992, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson declared that the service was ‘the closest thing the English have to a religion’. Yet in 2016, a physician publishing in the British Medical Journal asked whether the service was, in fact, a ‘national religion or national football’, referring to the complex politics of healthcare. Placards, posters, and prescriptions radically illuminates the multiple meanings of the NHS, in public life and culture, over its seventy years of life. The book charts how this institution has been ignored, worshipped, challenged, and seen as under threat throughout its history. It analyses changing cultural representations and patterns of public behaviour that have emerged, and the politics and everyday life of health. By looking at the NHS through the lenses of labour, activism, consumerism, space, and representation, this collection showcases the depth and potential of cultural history. This approach can explain how and why the NHS has become the defining institution of contemporary Britain.
The National Health Service (NHS) officially ‘opened’ across Britain on 5 July 1948, replacing a previous and patchy system of charity and local providers and making healthcare free at the point of use for all. By 1974, Barbara Castle stated: ‘Intrinsically the National Health Service is a church. It is the nearest thing to the embodiment of the Good Samaritan that we have in any respect of our public policy.’ This comparison crossed decades and party lines: in 1992 the former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson declared that the service was ‘the closest thing the English have to a religion’. By 2016, a physician publishing in the British Medical Journal asked whether the service was, in fact, a ‘national religion or national football’, paying testament to media and public critique which began at the service’s very inception. Posters, protests, and prescriptions provides a series of case studies which ask: what have the multiple meanings of the NHS been, in public life and culture? What cultural representations and changing patterns of individual behaviour emerge when an institution is simultaneously worshipped, challenged, and seen as under threat throughout its history? By looking at ‘culture’ in a variety of ways – through labour, activism, consumerism, space, and representation – this collection provides important historical insights into how and why the NHS has become a defining institution in contemporary Britain, frequently leading polls to define what Britons are ‘most proud’ of.