Public health and prevention - illustrated by Juliet Young

Public Health and Prevention

A significant amount of evidence indicates that wider social and economic factors give rise to psychological distress. Yet approaches to improving mental and physical health remain overwhelmingly individual.

As services struggle to meet growing demand within ever-tighter financial constraints, there is an urgent need to refocus attention on primary prevention of health difficulties.

The Public Health and Prevention Sub-Committee was established to promote awareness of, and innovation and practice in, preventative work both within the profession of clinical psychology and in the wider mental health community.

This page hosts news items and resources to support clinical psychologists work in prevention and public health. We will also use this page to advertise opportunities to get involved in this work and to help members to further their own development.

Taking a public health approach means trying to prevent such problems from developing in the first place. Health services tend to focus on treatment – that is, on supporting people who have already developed mental and/or physical health problems to live well and recover.

Preventative activities take place across population groups, across a range of clinical, community, business, industry and policy settings, and in collaboration with many different professionals and stakeholders.

They can take many forms, such as policy work to reduce housing inequalities, community interventions aiming to increase children's access to play events, school-based interventions to reduce exam stress, workplace interventions that improve working conditions, and campaigns to access to sports facilities and green spaces.

The PHP subcommittee first met in late March 2020, and identified a number of initial work streams:

  1. a need to survey preventative and public health activities currently undertaken by clinical psychologists in the UK, across a range of clinical, community and policy settings. The subcommittee have run this survey and the findings are shared in this blog
  2. exploration of the existing literature to understand how psychological factors and perspectives are currently considered. Navya Anand has authored a review of models relevant to public health and prevention, published in the DCP Forum's special issues on Public Health and Prevention
    CPF Special Issue on Public Health and Prevention, August 2022
    CPF Special Issue on Public Health and Prevention, September 2022
  3. forging links with other practitioner psychology groups within and outside the BPS, and hopes to work with the clinical psychology courses to consider how public health and prevention is embedded into professional training and associated competency frameworks

What kind of public health and prevention work is currently undertaken by UK clinical psychologists?

It is too early to know for certain what toll Covid-19 has taken on the nation's mental health, but there is widespread concern that services already creaking with the weight of demand could buckle with the impact of a world thrown upside down.

The latest blog from the DCP Public Health and Prevention group discusses the growing momentum behind the idea that a population-wide mental health crisis needs population-based interventions.

Both the August 2022 edition of the DCP Forum and the September 2022 edition of the DCP Forum were special editions, deep diving into prevention and public health activity amongst the profession.

Case Studies: Prevention and Public Health Theory and Practice

The subcommittee hosted a webinar in 2021 to showcase innovative projects and consider their implications for service delivery. Learning from the work presented has been written up as a series of case studies, ranging from examples of preventative work in schools, with marginalised communities and in the workplace.

Other Resources:

The subcommittee have identified the following resources that may support clinical psychologists seeking to integrate preventative activities into their work:

  1. The NEST Framework: this can be used for planning mental health, wellbeing and support service for babies, children, young people, parents, carers and their wider families.
  2. Summary of evidence on public mental health interventions.

Terms of reference

Read the terms of reference

Group members

  • Joint Chair: Tony Wainwright
  • Joint Chair: Richard Pemberton
  • Olga Luzon
  • David Harper
  • Fiona Mackay
  • Liz Gregory
  • Paul Corredor-Lopez
  • Sally Zlotowitz
  • Navya Anand
  • Sam Thompson
  • Michelle O'Sullivan
  • Julia Keleher