In 2001, the APA membership voted to change its bylaws and to include the term “health” in its mission statement. This statement now reads: “The objects of the American Psychological Association shall be to advance psychology as a science and profession and as a means of promoting health and human welfare.
Health psychologists are first and foremost psychologists, with the same basic training as any other psychologists. This training core was determined by the landmark Boulder Conference of 1949 which established psychology as both a scientific discipline and a practicing profession. From that time every doctoral program within a department of psychology has offered nearly the same core of generic course work for psychologists.
Along with the core courses required of all psychologists, health psychologists take courses in such fields as bio statistics, epidemiology, physiology, biochemistry, and cardiology. Like other psychologists, health psychologists rely on and contribute to the basic core of psychological research and then apply this knowledge to a particular field of specialization.
In other words, health psychologists are psychologists first and specialists in health second. According to Matarazzo (1987b), “psychology” is the noun that identifies the subject matter; and “health” is the adjective that describes the client, problem, or setting to which psychology is applied. Like other fields of psychology health psychology applies the principles of generic psychology to a particular area.
Health psychology does not exist as a profession separate from generic psychology; rather it applies both research knowledge and clinical experience to the science and profession of generic psychology, Health psychology has clearly emerged as a unique profession, having met six criteria for a separate profession. First, it has founded its own national and international associations Second, it has established a number of its own journals in addition to health Psychology Third, it has received acknowledgment from professionals in other fields of psychology that its subject matter, methods, and applications are different from theirs
Fourth, health psychology has set up postdoctoral training specific to health psychology and distinct from other fields of psychology Fifth, it has received recognition from the American Board of Professional Psychology and Sixth, it has been recognized by the American Psychological Association Commission on the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology.
In addition, health psychology is becoming recognized within medical schools, schools of public health, universities, and hospitals. Health psychology strives to enhance health, prevent and treat disease, identify risk factors, improve the health care system, and shape public opinion regarding health issues. Areas of Special Focus of health psychology:
Health psychology is concerned with all aspects of health and illness across the life span of individuals. Health psychologists focus on health promotion and maintenance, which includes such issues as how to get children to develop good health habits, how to promote regular exercise, and how to design a media campaign to get people to improve their diets.