Conference Psychology for Health - Contributions to Policy Making
September 20 & 21, 2012 at Bedford Hotel Brussels
Press release : 'Major health gains to be expected from psychology'
‘Preventive measures can reduce the incidence of depression and anxiety with 25% or more’. ‘Health damage due to alcohol abuse, smoking and overeating can be lowered by changing people’s behaviors and living environments’. These are conclusions from the expert conference ‘Psychology for Health’, organized by the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) in Brussels on September 20-21, 2012.
The conference was attended by 75 psychological experts, representatives of the health sector, the World Health Organization, and policy makers from the European Commission. They discussed public health statistics, costs and effectiveness of current health interventions, research on behavioral origins of health and illness, options for treatment of mental health, and the added value of psychological interventions at young age, adulthood, and later age.
The experts agreed that much can be gained by better using existing scientific knowledge. For example, obesity, which currently affects 25% of the UK population, can be curtailed by stimulating people’s physical activity with an intention planning technique or by stopping impulsive choosing of unhealthy foods through changed displays in supermarkets.
Evidence presented at the conference shows that psychological interventions do not only improve quality of life but are also cost-effective. Return on investment of health promotion at work is 10:1.
For bullying prevention in schools it is 14:1.
The ratio for prevention of conduct disorders is even 80:1. Treating depression and anxiety in patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer or asthma can reduce total care costs by 20%.
The EFPA conference was the first meeting of psychological experts in behavior change, prevention and treatment, and those involved in health care, schools, organizations, sports, and care for the elderly. The speakers addressed the share of behavior in the growing disease burden and current health inequalities, and the potential for improving health and lowering costs by better collaborating with the medical and nursing professions. They noted that behavior-based and cognitive interventions can lower the need for medical and pharmacological treatment, and that they can make such treatment more effective by making more patients follow doctors’ directions and prescriptions.
Other experts confirmed that psychologists can help improving conditions in schools and enterprises, where stress and mental health problems hamper learning and performance. They are in a good position to recognize early signs of physical and mental illness, to prevent bullying, and to help averting suicide, an increasingly urgent issue in the current economic crisis. Healthy ageing is another area in which psychology can have an impact, by changing the mindset and behavior of people as they get older.
The European Commission is keen to see more psychological contributions in implementing its health strategy, as was stated by Director General for Health and Consumer Affairs Paola Testori-Coggi in her opening speech. She emphasized the importance of getting more help of psychology in reducing depression, anxiety and stress as well as in strengthening the integrative approaches fostered by the EU’s “health in all policies” objective.
Dr. Arun Nanda, senior strategy advisor of WHO Europe, welcomed psychology’s intent to deliver more, specifically in narrowing the health divide in Europe.
In closing the conference, EFPA President Prof. Robert Roe, confirmed the commitment of European psychology to the cause of health. He pointed out that EFPA is developing an action program for better health at lower costs, which will engage psychologists at the European as well as the national level.
Additional information can be obtained from:
EFPA President Prof. Robert Roe and President of the Congress Prof. Stan Maes
After the congress
Thanks to the broad scope of psychological research and their close collaboration with other professionals in schools, businesses, communities, and health care institutions, psychologists are in a unique position to contribute to the improvement of physical and mental health in Europe. The aim of this conference was to highlight findings from psychological research and to demonstrate how psychologists can add to the work of other experts in safeguarding and promoting the health of European citizens. A particular emphasis has been put on the role that psychology can play in developing healthy life styles, the early discovery of health risks, and various forms of prevention.
This conference brought together experts from various areas of psychology, offering different but complementary perspectives on promoting health and reducing illness, with the purpose of sharing insights and experiences with policy makers and formulating policy statements as well as recommendations for future policies at the European and national level.
The conference is part of the "Psychology for Europe" initiative (2011) by which the European Federation of Psychologists Associations aims to raise the visibility and impact of psychology as a broad and potent field of science and professional activity that can bring substantial benefit to Europe, socially and economically.
Areas of expertise that have been covered (presentations can be downloaded here)
- Health promotion via behaviour change: life style, addiction and health
- Life-long learning and health: what school psychologists can do
- Enhancing the prevention and early treatment of mental ill-health: depression and suicide
- Health improvement through physical activity: lessons from sport psychology
- Managing serious illness: focus on patients and care-givers
- Health inequality in times of crisis: alleviating the impact of unemployment and poverty
- Employment, working conditions and stress: from research to practice
- Psychological contributions to healthy ageing and longevity
Congress Brochure PsyforHealth2012
Brochure can be downloaded here.
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