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11 - Relocating the field: critical health psychology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Antonia C. Lyons
Massey University, Auckland
Kerry Chamberlain
Massey University, Auckland
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We live in a world in which poverty and inequalities in wealth and access to resources are the major causes of ill-health.

(Campbell & Murray, 2004, p. 194)

[T]he most powerful corporations are more powerful than many elected governments, able to influence legislation, especially in relation to health, education and welfare and to ensure massive public expenditures in support of the medical model, including pharmacological consumption.

(Albee & Fryer, 2003, p. 74)

[H]ealth psychologists are seriously reflecting on their discipline and attempting to articulate theories and methods so that they can participate in the broader movement for social justice and health.

(Murray & Campbell, 2003, p. 235)

Learning objectives

The aim of this chapter is to reflect on health psychology as a field, and to consider the approach taken to health psychology in this text. We consider the critical perspective taken, and how this influences conceptualisations of, and research on, health and illness. By the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • show an understanding of the traditional approaches to health research and their limitations;

  • discuss social influences on health and illness;

  • reflect on alternative possibilities for research into health and illness;

  • outline challenges and opportunities for improving health from a global international perspective;

  • explain what is meant by a ‘critical’ perspective on health and illness research;

  • compare and contrast ‘critical health psychology’ with ‘mainstream health psychology’;

  • describe the requirements for enabling health psychology to enhance its contributions to the health and well-being of individuals, communities and societies.

Health Psychology
A Critical Introduction
, pp. 347 - 369
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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Aboud, F. E. (1998). Health psychology in global perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. A valuable text that explores and discusses an international role for health psychology. This text is unique in taking up global issues in health from a psychological perspective.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crossley, M. L. (2000). Rethinking health psychology. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press. A book that raises many concerns that are critical of mainstream health psychology and proposes alternatives. It is important reading for developing an understanding of critical health psychology.Google Scholar
Health Psychology, 2004, vol. 23. Special section on the future of health psychology. This special section contains eight articles reflecting on different aspects of the progress in health psychology over the last twenty-five years. Although largely from a mainstream health psychology perspective, it raises interesting concerns and calls for increased attention to a number of areas.
Lee, K. (2003). Globalisation and health: an introduction. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. This book provides an excellent overview and discussion of the complex relationships between globalisation and health.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Murray, M. (ed.) (2004). Critical health psychology. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. This edited book contains a range of chapters which elaborate many of the issues discussed here. It covers theory, context, methods and practice, and provides a further background to many aspects of critical health psychology.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prilleltensky, I. & Prilleltensky, O. (2003). Towards a critical health psychology practice. Journal of Health Psychology, 8, 197–210. An important article which focuses on critical health psychology, and discusses it in terms of values, assumptions and practices. The paper is followed in this issue of the journal by several commentaries, which react to the discussion and develop the arguments in different ways, and make interesting reading.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed

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