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Summary of Week 4

A brief summary of the main concept of week 4 will be presented
Word cloud for Behavioral medicine
© Università degli Studi di Padova

This is the last week of the course and I’ve left for it some miscellaneous and innovative aspects of health psychology.

First of all we went back to definitions: health psychology often embraces (or is confused with) several other disciplines and concepts.

We briefly described and defined terms as behavioral medicine, clinical health psychology and medical psychology.

We discovered how some of these terms are ill-defined and sometimes their meaning changes in different countries:
for instance, in Italy medical psychology is basically related to clinical consolation and patient-physician relationship, while in UK it has a more applicative sense defining a psychologist involved in medical settings with some knowledge of medicine as well.

Among different domains we then focused on psychosomatics.

The discipline is defined as “a branch of medical science dealing with interrelationships between the mind or emotions and the body and especially with the relation of psychic conflict to somatic symptomatology”.

Psychosomatic medicine is a very important domain, relevant from medicine to psychoanalysis.

Within psychosomatic medicine we also described the medical unexplained symptoms (MUS).

MUS are a frontiers category because they define the limits of our comprehension of human functioning: they can be related to physical symptoms which we still cannot describe in terms of pathophysiology (i.e., we are not able to find an organic cause), but also those which do not have an organic cause but are at the intersection of biology, society and psychology as described in the biopsychosocial model.

The next area we touched on this week was positive psychology.

All the psychological constructs and interventions, based on the assumption that positive and optimistic thinking has a positive effect on psychological experience of illness, but also on illness itself.
We discussed the most important concepts of this area of psychology, the proof of efficacy and the pros and the cons of its application.

The last activities of the week were somehow antithetic.

On one hand we discussed the possible application of technology to improve health.

E-health has been changing our life and our way to experience health for over two decades now. With smartphone apps, web resources and wearable monitoring systems, the innovation and possibilities of this area of biotechnology and engineering seem to be never ending.

At the opposite, miles away from the high-income technological novelties, we considered the application of health psychology to low-income countries.

Despite what one can think at a first glance, health psychology is not a surplus for wealthy countries, but can make the difference in poor countries too.
The targets for interventions are different thought:

  • in high-income countries reduce obesity and smoke habits and promote healthier diet or physical exercise are typical actions to be promoted,
  • in low-income ones the interventions may aim, for instance, to make individuals change habits to choose unpolluted dwells.

I hope that all these various topics have boosted your interest in the various domains of health psychology.

After the quiz remember to leave your feedback on the week’s activities.

© Università degli Studi di Padova
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Introduction to Health Psychology

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