Conference: "Communicating Good Health: Movies, Medicine, and the Cultures of Risk in the Tweentieth Century" - 26-27 May 2011, Geneva (Switzerland) - Deadline: April 8, 2011

Conference Announcement:

Communicating Good Health: Movies, Medicine, and the Cultures of Risk in the Twentieth Century

Geneva, Switzerland, 26 - 27 May 2011

Organizers: Prof. Christian Bonah, Institut de Recherches Interdisciplinaires sur la Technologie et les Sciences (France); Dr Anja Laukötter, Max Planck Institute for Human Development (Germany), Dr. David Cantor, National Institutes of Health (USA).

During the twentieth century, film came to be seen as a revolutionary technology that would entertain, document, instruct, and transform a mass audience. In the field of medicine and public health, doctors, educators, health advocates and politicians were especially enthusiastic about the potential uses of the motion picture as a "modern" tool of communication.

This conference aims to explore the historical development of the public health education film as a medium for transforming public ideas and practices about disease, health and the body. In particular, it seeks to show how a variety of medical and public health organizations turned to movies to educate the public, reform their health behaviours, and manage their anxieties and hopes about health, illness, and medical interventions. Its topics include how health campaigns employed motion pictures to promote their public education programs, how these films were produced and distributed, how the public responded to them, and the communication techniques that filmmakers and their sponsors used to ensure that films did the work they wanted them to do.

The symposium will be of interest to: historians of medicine, science, film and the media, bioethicists, physicians, public health officials, and specialists in health education.

Registration is limited to 25 participants, so please book early by completing the Registration Form and payment details. The form should be returned to the Brocher Foundation by mail, email or fax. The deadline for registration is 8th of April 2011.

For further details on the Symposium see or contact

Brocher Foundation
Rte d'Hermance 471, CP 21
CH - 1248 Hermance, Switzerland
Telephone: +41 22 751 93 88
Fax: +41 22 751 93 91


Dr. Vincent Lowy, University of Strasbourg, France
Facing Hollywood Golden age aesthetics: John Ford's 'Sex Hygiene' (1941) and the question of singularities, contexts and methods of health education films

I. Campaigns: Strategies and Practices

Dr. Miriam Posner, Emory University, Atlanta, USA
"Educational Prophylaxis" and "Mental Inoculation": Vaccine metaphors in World War One hygiene films

Dr. Anita Gertiser, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Going for the heart strings - how emotions are employed in educational films

Prof. Ursula von Keitz, University of Bonn, Germany
Cinema and health education in West and East Germany from 1945 to 1955

Prof. Susan Lederer, University of Madison Wisconsin, USA
Radiating health: Public health and mass destruction in the 1950s

II. Production and Distribution

Dr. David Cantor, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, USA
Between movies, markets, and medicine: The Eastern Film Corporation, Frank A Tichenor, and medical and health films in the 1920s.

Dr. Timothy Boon, Science Museum, London, Great Britain
The culture of health education filmmaking and reception in Britain, 1914-1951

Dr. Kirsten Ostherr, Rice University Houston, TX, USA
The biopolitics of animation: Global health and sponsored films in the postwar era

Dr. Paul Theerman Images and Archives Section, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, USA
The historical medical films of the National Library of Medicine

III. Reception and Spectatorship

Dr. Alexandre Sumpf, University of Strasbourg, France
Soviet cinema and social hygiene against alcoholism in New Economic Policy -era Russia

Dr. Anja Laukötter, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
Measuring knowledge and emotions. Audience research on educational films in the beginning of the 20th century

Prof. Vinzenz Hediger, University of Bochum, Germany
The smell of poverty. Cinema, olfaction, and the discourse on public hygiene in early cinema

Prof. Scott Curtis, Northwestern University, USA
Acting out: Performance and identification in the postwar mental health film

Dr. Michael Sappol, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, USA
Difficult subjects: Showing, viewing and the moral effects of the medical cinema of disease and suffering

IV. Communication techniques: Information - commercialization - propaganda

Elizabeth Lebas, Middlesex University, London, Great Britain
Where there's life, there's soap': Municipal public health films in Britain, 1920- 1954

Prof. Christian Bonah, University of Strasbourg, France
Propaganda in the service of humanity. Promoting and advertising health in industrial and corporate films from the 1920s to the 1950s

Dr. Odette Wegwarth/Dr. Wolfgang Gaissmaier, Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development Berlin, Germany
Can audio-visual information about health ever be neutral enough to 'educate' rather than 'persuade'?


David Cantor PhD
Deputy Director
Office of History
National Institutes of Health
Bldg 45, Room 3AN38, MSC 6330
Bethesda, MD 20892-6330
Phone: 301-402-8915 (Direct)
301-496-6610 (Office)
Fax: 301-402-1434