It’s three years since we founded the Health Psychology in Public Health Network. We came together to help researchers, practitioners, policymakers and commissioners identify and integrate insights from Public Health and Health Psychology into their work; with the aim of helping to improve and protect the health of our population. And I waxed lyrical at our recent AGM on the work we’ve done, how brilliantly I felt the people who have joined have supported each other, and how privileged I felt to be part of it. It’s evident we fill a need.
There is a real serious background to why we have come about. If, as the Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies and others argued in The Lancet that we need a new wave in public health improvement – which is about culture and behaviour change, then public health must be psychologically literate and psychology must understand and apply the public health population mindset. We need each other to address the multiple social, behavioural and structural challenges ahead.
Equally, there are many people in Public Health who think they “know” about psychology and behaviour change but need some guidance. What works in helping people change and sustain change in behaviour? What kinds of techniques help people recover from drug and alcohol use? How can self-management with long term conditions be improved? How do we get clinicians to become a force for prevention of avoidable ill-health? All of these things are concerns for both public health and psychology, as well as other social sciences. These challenges are not new, as I blogged about recently.
What we have added as a network is I believe the following: First, a place where people from different disciplines can share and learn in a safe environment. Secondly, a means of helping people navigate across and between disciplines, and third, Leadership. From events to awards, we have profiled the benefits and helped cross some of the barriers of interdisciplinarity. Our new Chair, Angel Chater, and committee both past and new are all committed to this. New Honorary Fellows and other plans for development will add to our work and presence. We are trying as a network to work in a way which shows we can be interdisciplinary in everything we do, including handing over from a Public Health Chair (me) to a Health Psychology Chair (Angel), and having several of our committee members who are clearly interdisciplinary in their focus as well as people who are more focused on one discipline.
As I write, HPPHN is an integral part of efforts to build a national strategic framework for behavioural and social sciences in Public Health. Quite an achievement for such a young organisation.
What started as an East of England network has now spread much more widely. But our gatherings, I hope, remain focused on quality input, useable direction, friendliness and time for networking and sharing that sets us apart from a number of other networks. You have made this happen, not me. And I think you’ve given us a model of where to go for the future.
I would like to see us continue to punch above our weight and size at national level, but never lose sight of the fact our key value is in supporting each other to achieve our ambitions for our populations and our work.
I’m proud to be a part of this.
Jim McManus, Director of Public Health for Hertfordshire, Past Chair HPPHN