eISSN: 2450-5722
ISSN: 2450-5927
Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 3
Special paper

The representation of health and illness in lifestyle propaganda posters of the Polish People’s Republic as a method of promoting cultural norms

Rafał Nowakowski

Poster Museum in Wilanów, Warsaw, Poland
J Health Inequal 2017; 3 (1): 83–95
Online publish date: 2017/06/30
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The poster, as a historical object, functions on several different levels. It is a testimony of social life and popular culture, an example of the evolution of graphic design, but also a document of visual communication. Under capitalism the poster has become an instrument of advertising. However, in the specific geopolitical conditions of post-war Poland, advertising was replaced by propaganda. Instead of evolving communications aimed at consumers, development focused on propaganda or the promotion of public actions. This form of propaganda pertained not only to political questions, but also to issues of social advocacy. In this way, health and hygiene literacy building entered the public discourse.

While usually initiated by the state, these efforts were often embraced by artists. The confluence of art and social advocacy was evident in efforts such as the activity of the Polish Anti-tuberculosis Society – founded before Wold War II, in anti-alcohol or anti-nicotine campaigns, or in sexual education campaigns, such as those building awareness of venereal diseases. Such initiatives contributed to the development of active civic attitudes among Polish graphic artists, who frequently became involved in social advocacy efforts.

At the same time, Polish poster art obtained a unique position in the world, in which the artistry and individualism of the artist overshadowed the functional aspects of applied art. The result of this was the development of a sophisticated and original form of art, combining the latest achievements of visual communication with social engagement and public health advocacy. In this way, applied art was harnessed as a way of communicating positive, educational messages, attributing health promotion efforts with an artistically refined form. The ongoing project investigates the archival materials of the Wilanów Poster Museum in order to document this important aspect of social life in Poland.

propaganda posters, lifestyle, promoting cultural norms

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