Creating a market in workplace health promotion: the performative role of public health sciences and technologies

A. Meershoek*, K. Horstman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Web of Science)


The last 20years have seen the rise of a market' aiming to promote the vitality and health of employees. In this article, we use insights from Science and Technology Studies to analyze how this market developed, what side effects it has given rise to, and to what extent the market identifies and addresses these side effects. Drawing on an analysis of documents and interviews with stakeholders, we will show that knowledge institutes have played a major role in turning employee health into a commodity. Referring to the health sciences for legitimation, they have developed market devices' that turn employee health into a commodity. In this commodification process, employees are transformed into an object of care and do not constitute a market party themselves. Privatization of occupational health is accounted for by arguing that market mechanisms will adequately address the health of employees as a public goal. However, subtle mechanisms serve to discipline employees who already display a more or less rationalized lifestyle into vital and fit workers, while threatening to exclude unhealthy employees. These unintended side effects of the market of workplace health promotion are neither identified nor addressed in the market, which - for the time being at least - is thus failing to safeguard the public interest of employee health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
JournalCritical Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2016


  • workplace health promotion
  • commodification
  • STS
  • market devices
  • knowledge institutes
  • WORK

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