Healthy disciplines

Journal of Health Psychology (four times a year)
February 21, 1997

The Journal of Health Psychology is one of three publications in in health psychology to arrive in early 1996. To distinguish between these and several other English-language titles is difficult, since interdisciplinary relationships and coverage of all psychological factors relating to health and illness across the life span are claims common to all three publications. The overlaps hide the nuances, with the consequence that differences, specialisations or even the emergence of one publication as superior are likely to depend only on particular editorial decisions.

The aims of this journal are many. Quantitative as well as qualitative methodologies are to be encouraged; research, theories, methods and intervention are posited within cultural, sociopolitical and community contexts. The scope of health psychology is to be broadened by drawing not only from cognitive, clinical and social psychology but by including disciplines such as epidemiology, anthropology, sociology, and communications.

In the first issue, the editor David Marks deplores the individualistic and positivist nature that accounts for most work and criticises "the failure of health psychology to deal with inequalities". In later issues, this criticism could justifiably become a claim to space for the exploration of collective efficacy, as well expressed by A. Bandura in Self-efficacy in Changing Societies, effectively a rallying call for health psychology.

The second issue has diverse material derived from hospital and community circumstances, but opens with an historical article by H. Newton Malony on "Wesleys primitive physick''. J. Spicer and K. Chamberlain point out in "Developing psychosocial theory in health psychology: problems and prospects'' that one of the problems of health psychology is its "location"; a tantalising open question in that this very notion may potentially be in conflict with the editor's wish to "broaden". These authors identify "flowcharting'' and the influence of "root metaphors and concepts from adjacent health science'' as impairing the construction of health psychology theories with a true social dimension. Theories of health and disease that locate causation in the "relations'' between individuals and their social context are defended, and seen to have potential for bringing "order to a wide range of existing findings on the determinants of health''. The authors do, however, recognise that the development of appropriate forms of measurement and analysis are difficult problems.

Issue three, "Messages and meanings: health communication and health psychology", is guest edited by Gary L. Kreps of the University of Nevada, who states that "communication research focuses on messages and psychological research focuses on meanings'' and proceeds to emphasise the importance of both. E. Maibach, A. Maxfield, K. Ladin and M. Slater argue in a report of the American Healthstyles Audience Segmentation Project that health/lifestyle segmentation can advance the goals of public health communication more than demographic or behavioural segmentation alone. In view of the important interface between health psychology and health communication this is a timely study deserving replication.

There are articles in the first three numbers of the Journal of Health Psychology, 14 of which are research reports. These three issues do not contain an example of experimental applied health psychology studies, and a bias against quantitative research is also noteworthy. "Subjectivity" in health psychology has its place but the apparently inexorable shift towards qualitative research methods is unbalanced and open to much criticism. Credibility ultimately rests on assurances derived from repeatability; well-constructed and accurately recorded replications, including those of quantitative research, should be further encouraged. As M. Morgan recently questioned in The Psychologist: "Is psychology really to be the only branch of science perpetually doomed to be trapped in the concepts available within our discourse?" Overall, the JHP's ambitious editorial aims are unlikely to be fulfilled unless there is an increase in size. An incentive for contributors is that they will be entitled to select open or blind peer reviewing, and two innovatory editorial features are in prospect. One of these, the regular publication of comments in a bulletin section, may be viewed as a feedback stratagem for sustaining relevance of the material; the second is a "JHP-open" facility', which will be available on the World Wide Web to encourage reader participation in an international health psychology network. Both are commendable.

Elvidina N. Adamson-Macedo is a chartered psychologist and senior lecturer in health psychology, University of Wolverhampton.

Journal of Health Psychology (four times a year)

Editor - David F. Marks
ISBN - ISSN 1359 1053
Publisher - Sage
Price - £30.00 (indiv.) £90.00 (inst.)
Pages - -

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