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The role of psychology is emphasised in new guidance on improving public health

08 October 2018

Many of the problems currently impacting on population health, such as smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity, could be reduced by changes in individual behaviour.

However, while individual behaviour change is extremely important, a comprehensive and coherent framework to address these behaviours needs to draw more broadly on psychology and the social sciences to identify and solve structural and social issues. 

That is the conclusion of a new publication from Public Health England (PHE).

Improving people’s health: Applying behavioural and social sciences to improve population health and wellbeing in England is designed to help public health professionals apply the insights and methodologies of behavioural and social sciences to their work on protecting and improving the health of the people.

It provides a framework and suite of resources to help achieve this and emphasises the important role that psychology can play

There are sections on health psychology, cognitive psychology and health psychology, which emphasise increasing importance to public health practice.

A number of psychologists were involved in the production of improving people’s health, including Society member Professor Jim McManus, who played an important part in setting up the initial of the group that wrote the Improving People’s Health.

Professor McManus, who is director of public health for Hertfordshire County Council, said at a recent PHE Conference that “public health is a mind-set” and “you can’t do public health without having a range of different perspectives.”

Professor Stephen Sutton, former chair of our Behaviour Change Advisory Group, and Nigel Atter, a lead policy adviser with the Society, were involved in those early meetings and the project’s writing group. Several other applied psychologists, including Jo Hart, Roxanne Gervais and Karen Rodham, also contributed.

Improving people’s health was developed in partnership with the Association of Directors of Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, Behavioural Science and Public Health Network, and the Local Government Association.


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