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Public Health in the EU: Is Europe subject to Americanization?

Author: PAULETTE KURZER
Published in GPS, Vol. 4 No. 1

This paper examines where the European Commission obtains its
ideas, validity, and legitimacy to move into areas that receive only
minimal support from national political leaders and societal forces.
Public health is not a major priority for European politicians and
voters alike yet the EU has moved into several highly visible areas of
intervention such as tobacco control and nutrition. This paper argues
that the Commission took its own initiative to politicize smoking and
obesity and that it received support, scientific validity, and political
credibility by cooperating with the World Health Organization. In turn,
the World Health Organization is highly susceptible to American
definitions of public health because it relies on outside experts for
information, language, and scientific input. The success of a ‘global
advocacy coalition’ fighting against smoking and unhealthy diets
mirrors the widespread influence of American federal and non-profit
institutions, granting agencies, pharmaceutical industry, and research
communities in the area of public health. In a circuitous way, US
public health research, reports, policy, and rhetoric contribute to the
growing global alarm about lifestyle diseases.

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