Medical Populism

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As illustrated by contemporary health crises—most starkly the COVID-19 pandemic—the intersection of populism and health has had a profound impact on lives and livelihoods of people around the world. Drawing on the scholarship that looks at populism as a repertoire of styles and performances, this chapter offers the vocabulary of medical populism to characterize and make sense of how individual political actors respond to health crises, discussing each of its four elements: simplification, spectacularization, division, and invocation of knowledge claims. Although its efficacy in responding to health crises is in doubt, its political efficacy suggests that medical populism is here to stay for the years and decades to come.