Mass Marketing and Social Change: The Postwar Era - Page Banner

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Letter In 1947, the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This new approach to healthy living was a clear change from the past, spurred on by the devastation of World War Two and a determination to make the world a safer, healthier place for all.

Cover: The World Health Organization, Supplement no. 41 to Canada’s Health and Welfare, [ca. 1966]

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The World Health Organization, Supplement no. 41 to Canada’s Health and Welfare, [ca. 1966]
Treasury Department's Policy Planning Division subject files
Reference Code: RG 6-44
Archives of Ontario, I0040219

The World Health Organization, Supplement no. 41 to Canada’s Health and Welfare; Preamble to the Constitution, [ca. 1966], Page

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The World Health Organization, Supplement no. 41 to Canada’s Health and Welfare;
Preamble to the Constitution, [ca. 1966]
Treasury Department's Policy Planning Division subject files
Reference Code: RG 6-44
Archives of Ontario, I0040220


The success of mass immunization campaigns and the availability of a large variety of new drugs and treatments meant that the prevention of disease and the promotion of health were more possible than ever. Large-scale advertising campaigns and “social marketing” tools became the norm, as the government took a much more active role in the promotion of healthy living.

Protect your child against poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, smallpox
Issued by the Health League of Canada, Toronto.
Distributed by Ontario Department of Health. 1959.
Reference Code: PAMPH 1959 #54
Archives of Ontario, I0040262

Pamphlet: Protect your child against poliomyelitis, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, smallpox

Video clip of dentist with student, Toronto, 1946
Jarvis [Collegiate Institute] dental and TB services
Walter Moorhouse fonds
Reference Code: C 231-18-0-8
Archives of Ontario


Tuberculosis (TB) was still a major public health concern. Mobile clinics were still active, and new cases were discovered across the province. But the numbers of those infected with TB began to dramatically decline by the late 1950s. Chart showing downward trend in tuberculosis mortality in Ontario, 1900-1970

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Chart showing downward trend in tuberculosis
mortality in Ontario, 1900-1970
Tuberculosis Prevention Service
Annual Report, 1970
Tuberculosis Reports
Reference Code: RG 10-97
Archives of Ontario, I0040133

Photo: Man being tested for tuberculosis at a mobile tuberculosis testing clinic, [ca. 1955]

Man being tested for tuberculosis at a mobile
tuberculosis testing clinic, [ca. 1955]
Gilbert Milne
Ministry of health fonds
Reference Code: RG 10-145
Archives of Ontario, I0005201


Chart: Scarlet Fever in Ontario, [ca. 1948]

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Scarlet Fever in Ontario, [ca. 1948]
Reference Code: RG 10-30-A-1
Public Health Nursing Branch
Archives of Ontario, I0029861

Chart: Typhoid Fever in Ontario, [ca. 1948]

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Typhoid Fever in Ontario, [ca. 1948]
Reference Code: RG 10-30-A-1
Public Health Nursing Branch
Archives of Ontario, I0029862

Effective tuberculosis drugs were finally in use by the postwar years. The communicable diseases such as TB that had been the leading causes of death began to be superseded by chronic diseases, accidents, suicide, and lifestyle diseases as the major killers.

The graphs to the left and below illustrate the decline of other communicable diseases throughout the first half of the twentieth century.


Chart: Diphtheria in Ontario, [ca. 1948]

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Diphtheria in Ontario, [ca. 1948]
Reference Code: RG 10-30-A-1
Public Health Nursing Branch
Archives of Ontario, I0029863


More and more, as the costs and complexity of health care rose, governments began to concentrate on helping people prevent disease. Canadians’ demands to do something about the high cost of good medical care also pushed governments to seriously consider the concept of publicly funded medicine: on January 1, 1959, hospital insurance was introduced in Ontario, and on October 1, 1969, a comprehensive system of medicare became available to all.

An outline for hospital insurance
for Ontario, [ca.1958] ”
Ministry of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-13-0-1
Archives of Ontario


But medicare didn't really address the issue of preventive health. The promotion of healthy living required a different, far-reaching approach.

To reach as many people as possible with the same health_promotion message, the Ontario government began a series of mass-marketing campaigns. These campaigns talked about the health benefits of quitting smoking, following the Canada Food Guide, keeping one’s immunizations up to date, and getting enough physical exercise, among other things. 

Pamphlet: Do's Dont's for the Wives of Alcoholics, [between 1950 and 1961]

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Do’s Dont’s for the Wives of Alcoholics,
[between 1950 and 1961]
Ministry of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-30-A-1, 2-14
Archives of Ontario, I0029847


Cover: Alcoholism pamphlet, [between 1950 and 1961]

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Alcoholism pamphlet, [between 1950 and 1961]
Ministry of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-30-A-1, 2-14
Archives of Ontario, I0029845

Inside Cover, Alcoholism pamphlet, [between 1950 and 1961]

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Alcoholism pamphlet, [between 1950 and 1961]
Ministry of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-30-A-1, 2-14
Archives of Ontario, I0029846


Alcoholism pamphlet, 1960, page 6 and 7

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Alcoholism pamphlet, 1960
Reference Code: RG 10-30-1 Alcoholism folder
Archives of Ontario, I0029848


Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, cover, 1963

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Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, cover, 1963
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1555
Archives of Ontario, I0040221

Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, inside pages 8 and 9, 1963

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Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, inside pages 8 and 9, 1963
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1555
Archives of Ontario, I0040222

Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, inside pages 10-11, 1963

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Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, inside pages 10-11, 1963
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1555
Archives of Ontario, I0040223

Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, inside pages 16-17, 1963

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Smoking and Cancer pamphlet, inside pages 16-17, 1963
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1555
Archives of Ontario, I0040224

Governments were joined in these campaigns by a host of voluntary agencies—the Heart and Stroke Foundation, cancer-research groups, and dietitians. Their combined “social marketing” efforts aimed to get the word out about healthy living to all Ontarians. 

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Your Choice? handout published by the
Canadian Cancer Society, [ca. 1963]
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1554
Archives of Ontario

Pamphlet: Your Choice? handout published by the Canadian Cancer Society, [ca. 1963]

The 1960s were an especially active time for these mass-marketing campaigns, and the beginning of a whole new understanding of the importance of good health and healthy living. Health educators and other health professionals began to gather at conferences and at symposia to discuss the promotion of healthy living.

Health Education Bulletin, Special Issue on Smoking and Health, Fall 1964, Page 1

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Health Education Bulletin, Special Issue on Smoking and Health, Fall 1964, Page 1
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1554
Archives of Ontario, I0040226

Health Education Bulletin, Special Issue on Smoking and Health, Fall 1964, Page 2

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Health Education Bulletin, Special Issue on Smoking and Health, Fall 1964, Page 2
Correspondence of the Deputy Minister of Health
Reference Code: RG 10-6-0-1-1554
Archives of Ontario, I0040227

They went out into the community and uncovered the sources of poor health and disease - poverty, environmental contaminants, malnutrition, and the like.

The health_promotion field developed in tandem with other social movements of the time, such as feminism and environmentalism. These movements challenged old ways of doing things with new ideas and approaches.

Photo: Public Health Inspector testing water quality of a public swimming pool in the New Liskeard - Kirkland Lake area, 1969

Public Health Inspector testing water quality
of a public swimming pool in the
New Liskeard - Kirkland Lake area, 1969
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
RG 16-276-1, 69-1992
Archives of Ontario, I0003186

Cover of a brochure about Nutrition Week, 1984

Cover of a brochure about Nutrition Week, 1984
Ontario Dietetic Association Fonds
Reference Code: F 4168
Archives of Ontario, I0040138

The Ontario government followed the lead of its health professionals and began to invest in good health for all. It hired more health educators and public health nurses, and began producing a large variety of materials on many aspects of healthy living. Everyone, from the youngest school child to the oldest nursing-home resident, would have access to these materials.


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Sanitation, public hygiene, and the fight against disease: 1882 to 1921
Public health nurses: bringing health home
Living longer, living healthier: health education in the curative age, 1921 to 1947
Mass marketing and social change: the postwar era | Health promotion in the modern era: 1974 and beyond
The promotion of healthy living in Ontario: timeline