Televisions began to appear in the homes of large numbers of the public in Europe and North America after World War II. This coincided with a period in which ideas about the public’s health, the problems that it faced and the solutions that could be offered, were changing. The threat posed by infectious diseases was receding, to be replaced by chronic conditions linked to lifestyle and individual behaviour.
Public health professionals were enthusiastic about how this new technology and mass advertising could reach out to individuals in the population with the new message about lifestyle and risk. TV offered a way to reach large numbers of people with public health messages; it symbolised the post-war optimism about new directions in public health.
But it could also act as a contributory factor to those new public health problems. Watching TV was part of a shift towards more sedentary lifestyles, and also a vehicle through which products that were damaging to health, such as alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy food, could be advertised to the public. Population health problems could be worsened by TV viewing.
How should we understand the relationship between TV and public health? What are the key changes and continuities over time and place? How does thinking about the relationship between public health and TV change our understanding of both?
In this three-day conference, we seek to explore questions such as:
– How did the enthusiasm develop for TV within public health?
– How were shifts in public health, problems, policies and practices represented on TV?
– How was TV used to improve or hinder public health?
– What aspects of public health were represented on TV, and what were not?
– How did the public respond to health messages on TV?
– What were the perceived limitations of TV as a mass medium for public health?
– In what way was TV different from other forms of mass media in relation to public health?
– How were institutions concerned with the public’s health present – and staged – on TV broadcasts?
The conference aims to bring together scholars from different fields (such as, but not limited to, history, history of science, history of medicine, communication, media and film studies, television studies) working on the history of television in Great Britain, France and Germany (West and East) (the focus of the ERC BodyCapital project), but also other European countries, North and South America, Russia, Asia or other countries and areas.
The conference is organized by the ERC funded research group BodyCapital, and hosted by the Centre for History in Public Health London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
The healthy self as body capital: individuals, market-based societies and body politics in visual twentieth-century Europe (BodyCapital) project is directed by Christian Bonah at the Université de Strasbourg in collaboration with Anja Laukötter at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin. The project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Advanced Grant agreement No 694817).
For more details see the project’s website.