Following Clemence, A. (2011): La prévention comme normalisation culturelle. Revue Suisse de Sociologie, 10, 37-84.

  • Lucienne Gilloz


The sociological approach to the study of the preventive medicine has emphasized that it corresponds to a complex system of different typologies of interventions pursued at various interconnecting levels. Amongst such interventions, Gilloz focuses on the educational campaigns organized in order to promote positive attitudes and encourage protective behaviors towards health within a given population. In particular, the study presents the sociological analysis of the campaign for the prevention of cardio-vascularized diseases held in Nyon between 1977 and 1981 by the means of the “Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique”. Specifically, in the light of the framework of the cultural sociology and of the sociology of education, the research aims to show how such campaign consists in a tempt to affirm an imperative model of ideal healt behavior inspired to medical expertise which consequently produces stigmatization against those individuals who are impeded to comply with it because of their social conditions. By such a way, it has been highlighted the cultural arbitrariness which characterizes the preventive campaign and the symbolic violence which derives from the purpose to generally impose health dominant values. A non representative sample of the Nyon population has been interviewed by the means of a questionnaire in order to make a comparison between the actual practices adopted by individuals and the ideal ones promoted by the campaign with reference to four sets of risk factors: a) smoking, b) alimentation, c) physical activity and d) controlling arterial blood pressure. Multiple correspondence analysis and Discriminant Analysis have been performed in order to emphasize the interconnection between real practices and social positions. Findings have shown that real practices are organized mainly according to their potential effects on human bodies in terms of dangerousness and hedonism. Gender and social status are the sociological variables affecting mostly the real practices factorial combination. Finally, the author points out that homology features the distinction between good and bad conducts both at medical and cultural levels. In the light of such a remark, she concludes that the campaign for the prevention of cardio-vascularized diseases asserts a dominant ideal of health which highly follows the cultural model typical to women belonging to medium and higher social classes to the extent to which it implies a process of cultural standardization and hegemony. Lastly, it is pointed out how the preventive medical model fails to overcome the traditional bio-medical complained limits by ending up to broaden its mainstream up to include new social categories and social domains. Further implications for preventive medicine are discussed.