Health, lies and videotape

Promoting dialogue about medical science is one of the Academy’s key objectives. We believe it is vital to engage the public in conversation about emerging medical research, and we encourage our Fellows to seize every opportunity to discuss their work with a diverse range of audiences.

One rainy evening in May, more than fifty members of the public made their way to the Academy for a film screening quite unlike anything you’d find in the local cinema.

The occasion was “Health, lies and videotape”, a short journey through the history of public health advice films throughout the twentieth century.

The films, taken from the Wellcome Collection archive, were originally shown in cinemas and on television to provide guidance on the main health issues of the day. The evening’s programme stretched from the early 1940s right through to the end of the 1970s, tackling everything from obesity and teenage smoking to vaccinations.

The aim of the screening was to encourage dialogue between medical experts and the public about the portrayal of risk when communicating health advice and the changing approaches to healthcare over the last century, as well as to discuss current medical research in a broad range of fields.

The evening featured a panel of experts including Professor Sir Steve O’Rahilly FRS FMedSci, Professor Maria Zambon FMedSci and Professor Virginia Berridge, who commented on the health advice offered in the films and how messages have changed in light of current research.

The event was held in collaboration with Science London, a local branch of the British Science Association. It was chaired by Dr Steve Cross, Head of Public Engagement at UCL and founder of many science-themed public events, including Bright Club and Science Showoff.

Watch – A cruel kindness (1967)


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