Journal Article

Canada's Active Living Policy: A Critical Analysis

Kim L. Bercovitz

in Health Promotion International

Volume 13, issue 4, pages 329-338
Published in print January 1998 | ISSN: 0957-4824
Published online January 1998 | e-ISSN: 1460-2245 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/heapro/13.4.329
Canada's Active Living Policy: A Critical Analysis

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The shift from a rigorous prescriptive exercise model to Canada's moderate ‘Active Living’ is examined. In its articulation as a ‘new’ and ‘unique’ approach, Active Living is reaching a critical turning point in the evolution of fitness policy in Canada. Active Living claims to represent the emergence of a new way of thinking and practice, as well as a new domain of discourse and ideology. In particular, it represents an example of a ‘top-down’ versus ‘bottom-up’ strategy for influencing the health of populations. Like the health promotion field, the literature on Active Living is replete with jargon and rhetoric. To the extent that Active Living represents a government-driven concept, a political agenda is implicit in its mandate. This article begins with an overview of the social, political and economic context underlying the evolution of Active Living. This overview sets the stage for understanding how and why Active Living was created. Following is a critical analysis of the discourse of Active Living (for example, lifestyle, empowerment, community and collaboration). An attempt is made to unpack meaning and hidden political agendas. What is revealed are the ways in which discourse has: (i) functioned to conceal power imbalances between government officials, practitioners and the community; and (ii) been appropriated by government to justify the rapid retreat of the welfare state from social responsibility for fitness and health. A discussion of the future of Active Living is provided. Here I argue that, in so far as it represents a powerful ideological mechanism for a de-centralized federal role in fitness, the thrust toward Active Living will continue.

Keywords: discourse; physical activity; policy

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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