Health Psychology: definition and areas of application


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health is defined as the state of well-being, both physical, mental and social. Starting from this conception, health is an area that encompasses several disciplines that adopt as an object of study any of those previously proposed approaches. Taking this into account the mental sphere is about deciphering through professionals in areas such as: neurology, neuropsychology , psychiatry and psychology ; The latter is the one we will talk about this time.
Health psychology sometimes tends to be little known even by psychologists themselves, but once it is practiced in the healthcare setting, it is very useful and beneficial when it comes to covering interdisciplinary or exclusively mental problems in patients who are in a health entity. Next we will talk a little more about its definition and areas of application to be able to exercise that branch of Psychology with the responsibility that it implies.

Definition of Health Psychology

It is that branch of Psychology in charge of the health area, that is, the entire set of emotional, cognitive and behavioral factors that are related to the onset, maintenance or recovery in cases of illness; starting from a main objective the preservation of health in the individual.
In addition to this, another of the functions of a Health Psychologist is the design of an action plan that seeks to promote health, prevent disease, intervene during the rehabilitation of people in a state of illness, as well as optimize systems and health services and participate in the formulation of public policies on issues related to mental health .
Finally, it should be noted that Health Psychology encompasses the study of factors such as: health education, healthy vs. risk behaviors, psychological factors associated with the disease, stress (coping), among others. All this with the sole purpose of promoting quality of life both individually and as a community.

Scope of application

At a general level we can classify the fields of application of Health Psychology into 4 groups: promotion, prevention, evaluation – treatment – rehabilitation and analysis (or improvement) of the system.
When a psychology professional practices promotional activities, this refers to informing and educating patients on relevant health topics , such as: sexual and reproductive health, vaccines, among others. In addition to this, it seeks to enhance and / or strengthen the protective factors (that is, everything that allows preventing a person from becoming ill), along with the generation of healthy lifestyles, participation in environmental health and citizen policies.
Regarding prevention, as its name indicates, the idea is to identify those factors that can produce a health problem, but that can be avoided; some of these can be: sedentary lifestyle, cigarette smoking, emotional problems, etc. All of this is done through: control of attitudinal, motivational and emotional variables; modify risky behaviors and / or unhealthy conditions in the environment, early detection of problems and relapse prevention.
The third scope of this branch is the evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of specific disorders such as cardiovascular, endocrine, food, cancer, neuromuscular, and kidney diseases, among others. Generally covering any health condition of a chronic and / or terminal nature, that is, any disease that requires permanent management for the rest of his life or that pathological condition that at some point may lead to the death of the person.
Finally, the fourth field of application of Health Psychology is the analysis and improvement of the health care system , in which the professional ensures that the care provided at the health sector level is analyzed, studies what can be improved, educates users in the proper use of the entity’s health system and trains healthcare, administrative and other professionals in certain specific skills that allow the user to feel satisfied with the service, for example, humanization in health services.

In conclusion…

Health psychology is a branch of psychology that has an enormous impact on the service provision of a health entity, from the diagnosis of the patient to its treatment and subsequent recovery and / or follow-up. Thus, the hospitals or clinics that have this figure offer much more comprehensive care in the process of maintaining health and preventing disease.


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