Stay well this Winter: Power (Part three)

Stay well this Winter: Continued…

In the first part of this three-part blog about the Public Health England campaign called Stay well this Winter, we looked at media tactics used to disemminate the message from PHE. In the second part, the idea of “power” was explored in the context of this campaign, with a view that contemporary views on power should be explored in this final part.

It is interesting to explore the idea that this campaign is simply a government-backed campaign with a very simple goal: to educate and inform in order to avoid uneccesary infection in the general public during a certain season in order to save resources for the NHS. A very straightforward seeming goal that could, as we explored before, be viewed in a 2D or 3D way with regards to power.

However, upon exploring the campaign further I found that it the campaign is not simply PHE working with the NHS but with other departments / ministries such as the Met Office, who give weather updates and alerts to the public, which is an entirely different department within the UK Government.

At a first glance, this could simply be summed up as the UK government having total power over the campaign but this is misleading as the campaign has been developed alongside healthcare professionals and those within the NHS who aren’t technically civil servants but, instead, are simply stakeholders and influence the campaign’s goals.

The cynical amongst us might doubt most, if not everything, government has to say but with a campaign such as this, the power structure should be analysed in a more contemporary context in order to fully understand the complexities behind it.

 

1D, 2D, 3D… Or simply, No D…

Rather than the idea of power being “over” a social actor or social group, as explored in the previous blog, more enlightened thinking – influenced by feminism – sees power as shifting towards a “power-to” (less dominance implied), “power-with” or “power from within” (Amy, 2016).

In the case of PHE’s campaign, it might be assumed that they still adhere to the power-to structure, but, actually I would argue that in this case that power-with is far more accurate as PHE have had to work with other departments, consultants and other healthcare professionals, as well as considering what the needs of the public are.

Holloway (2010) in his book “Change the world without taking power” points out that even when an organisation is considered as “power-to”, there is the risk that they slip back in to “power-over” should they become alienated from their activities. In this case, PHE’s campaign certainly isn’t power-to as it has been developing over the years and adapting – i.e., by using new media, techniques and tactics.

Conclusion

Over-all, this campaign encompassed a number of different online and offline materials that didn’t “dictate” what the public should do to avoid Flu and stay well during the winter period but, instead, gave people information based upon professional advice tailed for different demographies.

Bibliography

Allen, Amy, “Feminist Perspectives on Power”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2016/entries/feminist-power/&gt;.

HOLLOWAY, J. (2010). Change the world without taking power. London, Pluto Press.

Further Note

*This blog has been written as part of my Media, Campaigning and Social Change MA (Part time) at the University of Westminster, for more information about this course please view: http://www.westminster.ac.uk/MACampaigning.

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2 thoughts on “Stay well this Winter: Power (Part three)

  1. I like how you have analysed a campaign over three blog posts. Was your starting point the assumption that British public are likely to be hesitant about public health campaigns? I wonder how a campaign like this would be analysed differently in a country when attitudes towards government intervention in health are quite different, Japan for example?

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  2. Thanks for your post Alex.

    I was recently wondering about health campaigns and how much they influence society in the way they perceive themselves. How much powerful the messages are in these type of campaigns in order for people to start believing they have certain symptoms while they don’t have any?

    How much of our ‘personal power’ an autonomy to ‘go through a flu’ without much hassle has been lost? when telling people to ‘be aware of the flu’ for example.

    I will be writing some posts about this and will keep you updated! I’m sure there’s a lot more to share taking into account your experience in the field.

    Hope your mind doesn’t catch a flu when you least expect it! 🙂

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