Realising the value… of Health Psychology

We recently attended the final event of ‘Realising the Value’ where we were introduced to the latest learning from NESTA and the Health Foundation about putting people and communities at the heart of health and wellbeing. We were treated to an inspiring and heartfelt demonstration of what can be achieved when health services focus on what is important to people, nurture their skills and attributes and optimise the role of families, friends and communities in contributing to health.

Talented and passionate leaders, commissioners, practitioners and Experts by Experience spoke about how they are making real in-roads into changing the way health and social care services are delivered at a local level. Their message was simple: the health and social care landscape in the future must be person- and community-centred because this brings better outcomes for individuals, financial savings for services and wider benefits for communities.   What this requires, in practice, is more approaches that promote peer support, enable self-management, encourage social connectivity and build on peoples capabilities and values.

As champions of health psychology, this was music to our ears.  In our day to day work we develop and evaluate interventions that are premised on notion that health and wellbeing is a fundamentally biopsychosocial experience. We work with individuals, families and within communities because we recognise that is in these interrelated domains that we make decisions and take actions that are critical to health and wellbeing. We engage servicer users, or experts by experience, in the design and evaluation of services that matter to them. We help health professionals to have empowering conversations that tap into the values of their clients and enable them to create realistic behaviour-change goals.

Although ‘health psychology’ was not overtly mentioned in the discussions about Realising the Value, there were frequent references to the contribution of ‘behavioural insights’ to this agenda. Indeed, the Local Government Association, recently championed this same message in a paper about behaviour insights and health.[1] In this paper there are references to The Behaviour Change Wheel and the Theoretical Domains Framework, prominent models that have emerged from UK Health Psychologists. [2]

NESTA and the Health Foundation, in commissioning programmes like Realising the Value, are seeking to influence and shape the health and social care landscape. They are calling for us all to champion person and community centred approaches and they are challenging us to expand our knowledge and understanding about what works and why. Health Psychology, with its growing evidence base about self-management, peer support, befriending and co-production, has far more to offer this movement.

Here is a real and pressing opportunity for Health Psychology to raise its visibility as an important discipline with much to contribute to the changing and evolving health and social care landscape in the UK. We look forward to contributing to this agenda.

Notes

The Realising the Value programme, was funded by NHS England and led by Nesta and The Health Foundation, working in partnership with Voluntary Voices, The Behavioural Insights Team, PPL and the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University. For more information, and to access the series of publications associated with the programme, visit: www.nesta.org.uk/realising-value-programme-reports-tools-and-resources.

[1] Local Government Association (2016). Behavioural insights and health. http://www.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/7632544/L16-11+Behavioural+insights/0f9b83a6-cab1-43c2-ba99-2f381c1d2630

[2] Michie, Atkins and West (2014). The Behaviour Change Wheel. http://www.behaviourchangewheel.com

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