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Health Activism and Public Health

  • By: Heather M. Zoller
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Health activists play a significant role in shaping the politics of health by influencing public perceptions, policies, and social structures. This entry defines health activism and social movements; describes different domains, levels of action, and communication processes; and elucidates the contributions made by health activists.

Health activism involves efforts, often grassroots, to change norms, social structures, policies, and power relationships as they relate to medical and public health research and practice. Health activists challenge dominant social arrangements and power relationships that are perceived to cause illness or impede health promotion. Unlike health advocates who work primarily within existing structures, activist-oriented groups tend to engage in direct action, challenge the medical paradigm, and insist on democratic participation in knowledge production.

Health Social Movements Through History

Health social movements ...

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