chapter  2
22 Pages

Between war propaganda and advertising: The visual style of accident prevention as a precursor to postwar health education in Switzerland


Martin Lengwiler In the following chapter, I will analyse the changing styles of accident prevention in Switzerland from the end of the nineteenth century to the 1960s. Embedding the Swiss case into a comparative perspective including Germany, Britain and the USA, I will argue that the methodological innovations introduced into accident prevention before and during the Second World War had an important methodological influence on the styles of postwar health education undertaken by institutions of public health. Particularly, the strategies of visualisation in postwar health education have profited a lot, at least in the case of Switzerland, from the distinct professional experiences that institutions of occupational safety had acquired before 1945. Although we only know very little about the early history of the use of modem media in public health, it seems that, in European countries, institutions of public health have used the audio and visual opportunities of modem media since their early days in the 1930s.1 The national socialist regime in Germany was presumably the first to lead innovative, media-based campaigns in public health, notably with their anti-tobacco campaign for the prevention of cancer.2 However, the Nazis' innovations in public health did not survive the collapse of the regime in 1945, and most European countries developed their media-based approaches in public health in the 1950s and 1960s without referring to German policies. In Britain, the use of modem media was partly motivated by domestic purposes, as with the vaccination programmes of the 1950s, the need to promote the newly implemented National Health Service through television, or, after the 'great London smog' of 1952, by the question of industrial air pollution.3 Other countries like Switzerland or Germany, as I will point out below, also learned from public health in the USA and its methodological experiences during and immediately after the Second World War.