Chipperfield, Sarah and Woodcock, Pete (2009) “I would have switched off if it was just government legislation.” The Simpsons and the Teaching of Public Health Policy. In: International Association of Health Policy in Europe Conference 2009: Condition Critical - Health care, Marketising Reforms and the Media, 17th - 19 June 2009, Coventry, UK. (Unpublished)

In order to practise effectively in the health-care sector, undergraduate students on health professions courses need a critical appreciation of differing theories and values of health held between individuals, communities and cultures.
In addition, students need to be introduced to public health policy and methods of promoting public health (especially important post-Darzi). For students, this subject is often deemed uninspiring since, being largely practical and science-based programmes, government public health policy is considered outside their realms of interest, which presents a challenge for educators. This paper presents an example of how to successfully engage health professions students in the teaching of public health policy and political thought by examining an episode of The Simpsons in which Marge Simpson, worried about rising obesity levels in Springfield, petitions for a ban on sugar food products to promote health in the city. This example is then linked to J.S. Mill’s ‘Harm Principle’ to enable students to discuss other potential applications to public health policy and state intervention such as the smoking ban, alcohol laws and schools’ restriction of children’s meals to healthy options. This paper will outline the method used to enlighten students about topical health issues and evaluate the students’ feedback.

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