Informing health? Negotiating the logics of choice and care in everyday practices of 'healthy living'

Flis Henwood, R. Harris, P. Spoel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports on a qualitative study examining everyday practices of healthy living (HL). Forty four semi-structured interviews were undertaken with Canadian and UK citizens, aged 45-70, in April-May 2010. The research sits within the now substantial literature concerned with how health information is mediated, both by people and technologies, and employed in the context of 'good' health citizenship. Throughout this work, notions of 'choice' and 'empowerment' have been interrogated, theoretically and empirically, to reveal both the knowledge/power relationships integral to 'informing' processes and the shifting relationship between information and care in contemporary health encounters. In this paper, we analyse how people make senes of what it means to live healthily and how they know if they are doing so by focussing on three ways in which study participants become informed about healthy living: through their engagement with universal HL messages, through their own information searches, and through their attempts to measure their 'healthiness'. Following Mol's (2008) critique of the "logic of choice" in contemporary healthcare, we understand healthy living as a "situation of choice" where complex problems are framed as simple matters of choice and where information and technologies are understood as neutral aids to decision-making in support of 'correct' choices. Our analysis builds on and extends Mol's work by exploring how participants negotiate between this "logic of choice" and her alternative "logic of care" in their accounts of everyday HL informing practices and how the two logics "interfere" with one another. These accounts show resistance to the logic of choice through 'calls for care' but they also show clearly how the disciplining logic of choice works to (re)present such calls for care as failed attempts at healthy living, undermining the very practices the logic of choice seeks to encourage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2026-2032
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011

Bibliographical note

© 2011 Elsevier. All rights reserved


  • Canada
  • UK
  • healthy living
  • consumer health information
  • informed choice
  • empowerment
  • logic of choice
  • logic of care


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