Since the 1970s public health policy has attempted to counter the rise of chronic diseases by getting individuals to make healthy choices about smoking, alcohol, diet, and physical exercise. Inspired by the so-called new perspective of the 1974 Lalonde report, this shift from disease treatment to prevention has been a key focus of public health policy to this day. Every generation of public health reports presents prevention as the answer to past failures, but the continuous experience of failure is strangely coexistent with a fundamental belief in the ability of lifestyle prevention to produce large health improvements. The article tracks the genealogy of lifestyle prevention as policy idea across three generations of U.S. and Danish public health reports and finds a systematic interpretation of lifestyle prevention as being more successful and promising than acute medical treatment.

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