Public Health is...: permanences and modernities in university students' representations


  • Marta Julia Marques Lopes Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul; Escola de Enfermagem
  • André Luis Machado Bueno Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul; Escola de Enfermagem



Public Health, Social Representations, University Students


This article presents and discusses results of a study that investigated the ways in which subjects and groups understand and represent public health as a space of intervention and care in the health field. The discussion is about how university students in the health area represent such practices, considering that the representations are social and cognitive processes that depend on the subject but which are influenced by the social conditions in which they are elaborated and transmitted. It is a qualitative study conducted along 8 semesters with 8 groups of undergraduate students of the Nursing School, totaling 350 students approximately. During 4 years (2000/2004), we utilized the technique of free association of words and expressions in order to promote, in the classroom, the discussion on the theme or "problem" of public health as a field of study and practice. Eight posters were produced in connection with the issue and the material was set into categories per groups of students. Public health is configured on a stage of representations with meanings which are predominantly negative for different subjects. The predominant idea was that public health "is suitable for those who do not have any choice" and at the same time its transforming potential is idealized in Brazil's National Health System (SUS).


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How to Cite

Lopes, M. J. M., & Bueno, A. L. M. (2007). Public Health is.: permanences and modernities in university students’ representations . Saúde E Sociedade, 16(3), 92-101.



Part II - Original Articles