Examining Assumptions in Science-Based Policy: Critical Health Communication, Stasis Theory, and Public Health Nutrition Guidance

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Adele H Hite
Andrew Carter


Recent work in rhetoric of science, technology, health, and medicine argues for a shift away from critique, even as some health communication scholars call for critical engagement with the situated, ideological nature of scientific claims supporting public health messages. We suggest that critique of scientific claims remains important to rhetoricians of health and medicine, but that such critique must go further in examining interactions between science, values, and public health policy. We offer an adapted version of stasis theory as a framework for pursuing this end. Using the U.S. public health nutrition policy Dietary Guidelines for Americans as a case study, we engage this framework to explore how science-based nutrition policy provides a discursive lens that influences how subsequent scientific evidence is produced, interpreted, and employed.

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