Visualising obesity as a public health concern in 1970s and 1980s Britain
Jane Hand

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.

in Balancing the self