Fri mig for folkesundheden: En analyse af moderne sundhedskommunikation

Louise Müller

Student thesis: Master thesis


This Master’s thesis examines the ways in which public health is being communicated and how it makes freedom and control compatible. The field of public health promotion is analysed in connection with the occurrence of socioeconomic problems related to the so-called lifestyle diseases. The aim of the thesis is to identify a space for public intervention where freedom within an individual’s lifestyle is combined with the ideal of collective public health. With an empirical emphasis on five different campaigns from The Danish Health and Medicines Authority, this thesis aims to show how these campaigns are underpinned by a number of governmental techniques that balance a biopolitical need for intervention with a liberal governmental respect for self-regulating processes. Using the philosophy of Niklas Luhmann and Michel Foucault as the analytical framework and with emphasis on their theoretical concepts of paradox, biopolitics and governmentality, this thesis examines the managerial implications that emerge when a biopolitical rationality, that wants to intervene in order to optimize the health of the population, is connected with a liberal governmental rationality, sceptical of direct regulation. The thesis concludes that public health programmes have a built-in power relation where individuals are forced to take responsibility for themselves, but also for the joint project termed “welfare state”. The justification for government intervention in connection with political health programmes is that individuals will be biologically optimized and thus improve the common welfare and reduce public expenditure. But it also raises the question when is “healthy” healthy enough? Finally this thesis concludes that the problems of patterns of inappropriate lifestyles are centred around more than just obvious unhealthy living. In present-day democratic societies the use of modern techniques of power means that authorities seek to obtain a “self-governance” of the population in the name of public health. This forms a field of intervention where the subject not only becomes manageable, but also infrastructure, families, workspaces, etc. are integrated as significant institutions. The overall aim of this implicit power is to normalize the health “dissenters” as the ideal of perfection can then be accelerated.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages66