Social Marketing: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives

By Marvin E. Goldberg; Martin Fishbein et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 22
Hippocrates to Hermes: The Postmodern Turn in Public Health Advertising

Jerome B. Kernan Teresa J. Domzal George Mason University


ABSTRACT

Medicine is becoming a fragmented cultural phenomenon, no longer controlled by sacralized physicians who dictate the meanings of health and sickness. The social sciences have come to influence people's sense of wellness--both the private behaviors sufficient to its achievement and the public conditions necessary for its maintenance. As a result, Hermes (the god of science and commerce) is replacing Hippocrates as the dominant public health metaphor and advertising--the literature of consumption--is beginning to reflect this postmodern transformation in how the human body is construed and its well-being is negotiated. Using public health ads from around the world, this chapter illustrates several markers of postmodernism to highlight how the public discourse over wellness is changing and to demonstrate that contemporary advertising is accommodating this revised health dialogue. Apart from portraying public health campaigns in practice, these examples suggest some strategic guidelines for social marketing programs under the nascent postmodern condition.

Medicine's traditional grand narrative has collapsed. Family doctors, corner drugstores, and community hospitals have given way to exclusive specialists, supermarket pharmacies, and technology-driven medical centers. Third-party payers--both public and private sector--have wrested control of the treatment process from patients while the cost, efficacy, and fairness of the system is debated in a seemingly endless struggle at reform.

Yet, excepting Third World populations, which remain threatened by the natural forces of famine, malnutrition, and disease, contemporary so-

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