Can health education be health fascism?

Year: 2012

Author: Fitzpatrick, Katie, Tinning, Richard

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In contemporary times, concerns about health dominate the public consciousness. Current issues include everything from alcohol and drug use, teenage sexual behaviour and pregnancy, through to suicide, obesity and poor nutrition. Issues of safety, risk and decision-making are invariably implicated, along with more traditional calls for hygiene practices and the prevention of illness. The visibility of such health discourses is a form of public pedagogy based on moral panic, by which everyone learns to self-monitor, regulate and medicate their bodies in the name of health. Some commentators argue that this kind of health obsession is a form of, what can be termed, health fascism.
We explore the concept of health fascism in this paper in relation to the ways that schools are responding to the broader health agenda in classes. Drawing on examples of school-based resources, we question whether some forms of health education are potentially overt and negative forms of body control. We wonder if these forms of health education might in fact regulate young people's bodies and distort their perceptions of good health.