The way we name things both shapes and reflects our feelings, judgements, choices and actions. Analyses of the changing discourse in health promotion highlight a major shift from the socially proactive health promotion first elucidated in 1986 in the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, to a more biomedically defensive form of health promotion. In this study, critical discourse analysis of 10 weight-related public health initiatives produced by the Australian Government between 2003 and 2013 revealed an almost complete backgrounding of the concept of health promotion, and a foregrounding of the concept of ‘preventive health’. This term draws on the biomedical concept of prevention but attempts to remove the disease connotation by coupling it with the term ‘health’. The resulting term is at best oxymoronic. The goal of preventive health is not to prevent health, but to prevent illness, injury, disease and death. The depoliticised ‘preventive health’ discourse is consistent with liberal and neo-corporatist ideology and a retreat of the welfare state. The consequence of such a shift in naming is to invisibilise or remove recognition from health promotion as a discipline and practice. This is personally and professionally confronting to us as health promotion practitioners and serves to devalue the principles of modern health promotion.
5th International Critical Dietetics Conference, Manchester, United Kingdom 14-16 August 2015