News The Big Picture

A centenary of health campaigns

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 06 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5658
  1. Alison Shepherd
  1. The BMJ

This year marks 100 years of government communications in the United Kingdom since the establishment of the Ministry of Information in 1917.

In this time, the ministry and its predecessors have produced landmark campaigns designed to help people live healthier lives. To mark the anniversary, Public Health England has produced an online exhibition to showcase both the history of government marketing and the benefits to society when state and other agencies work together (

Among the hundreds of images is this poster (fig 1), which was distributed by HM Stationery Office to the armed services during the second world war.

Fig 1

Personal Cleanliness campaign poster

Imperial War Museum

Other exhibits include images from the 1986 antidrug campaign by the Department of Health and Social Security (fig 2), the Health Education Authority’s 1979 weight loss improves your attractiveness (and coincidentally your health) campaign (fig 3), and, also from the HEA, a campaign on the dangers of smoking in 1988 (fig 4), a year after the King’s Cross fire, which was started by a lit match and led to more hard hitting antismoking campaigns.

Fig 2

Heroin Screws You Up campaign

HEA/Science and Society Library
Fig 3

Look After Yourself campaign

HEA/Science and Society Library
Fig 4

Antismoking campaign

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