State-of-the-Art Presentations

Esther K. Papies

University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Papers session, 24 August, 11:30 – 13:00

Health Psychology and climate change: Time to address humanity’s most existential crisis

Climate change is a health emergency (British Medical Association, 2020). It is already causing drought, heatwaves, flooding, and air pollution that lead to excess mortality, and that exacerbate existing social and health inequalities. Among other cascading risks for the next 20-30 years (Quiggin et al., 2021), climate change may lead to crop failures, which can cause food crises, destabilization of markets, and social unrest; to water scarcity, which may lead to malnutrition, health crises, and mass migration; and to heat waves, which will cause premature death of millions each year. Due to climate and ecological breakdown, the survival of our species is uncertain.

 Climate change is no longer solely the domain of climate scientists, but requires mobilisation of behavioural scientists. Health psychology has a powerful role to play in urgent multi-disciplinary efforts at climate change mitigation and adaptation. To name but a few examples, health psychologists can design effective education around health and climate change; address barriers to engagement such as misinformation, fear, or low self-efficacy; develop behaviour change interventions (e.g., for plant-based diets, active travel); influence policy to cut carbon emissions; analyse and re-design systems to enable human flourishing within planetary boundaries; and help alleviate climate grief and anxiety, especially among young people.

 I will discuss impactful and hopeful ways for health psychologists at every career stage to engage with the climate emergency, for example by developing new research, by integrating climate change into teaching, by engaging with funding agencies to prioritise climate and health research, through sustainable travel and meeting habits, and by helping transform healthcare and education institutions into low-carbon organisations.

Climate change urgently requires transformational individual and systems-level interventions. It is time that we bring our collective expertise to bear on the most existential crisis humans have ever experienced.

Susan Michie

University College London, United Kingdom

Papers session, 25 August, 11:30 – 13:00

Psychology in policy and in practice: Advising government in the time of Covid19

Covid19 has harmed health and increased social and economic inequalities, partly due to the nature of the virus and its transmission and partly due to policy decisions. COVID-19 has shown that no person or community is an island; we are all inter-connected and solutions must take a collective and global approach if they are to be effective.

Responding well to a pandemic requires Governments to have rapid access to scientific advice from a wide variety of disciplines, including psychology. It also requires effective translation of that evidence into policy and practice. Human behaviour is at the heart of pandemic transmission and at the heart of its suppression. During Covid19, psychologists have drawn on their theories, methods and evidence to provide advice to policy makers to enable changes in behaviour, such as adherence to Government advice. They have also advised on strategies to embed new behaviours and social practices into everyday life so that they are maintained long-term.

The translation of this advice into policies is not direct and often not transparent, raising questions about the nature of the science/policy relationship. Scientists have many ways of informing policy, including via formal Government structures, ad hoc and informal groups and networks, individual relationships and press, broadcasting and social media. Psychologists have been active in all these channels during the pandemic.

Combining lessons learnt during the pandemic with previous psychological knowledge allows us to raise future possibilities for safeguarding health, improving science-policy translation, reducing inequalities and building more resilient, sustainable societies.

This talk will reflect on the experience, lessons learnt and questions raised by my experience of working with the UK Government, media and public during the Covid-19 pandemic. I will present some of the advice and its scientific basis, consider the science/policy relationship and raise questions about adapting to our likely future.

Karen Matvienko-Sikar

School of Public Health, University College Cork, Ireland

Papers session, 26 August, 11:30 – 13:00

Online Presentation

What we Measure Matters: Core Outcome Sets and Health Psychology

Abstract Background: Core Outcome Sets (COS) are standardized sets of outcomes, agreed upon by stakeholders, that should be the minimum outcomes measured and reported in all trials in particular health areas. To date, COS have received little attention in health psychology. This is despite benefits including improved evidence syntheses and evaluation of intervention effectiveness, which are central to health psychology research.

Methods: This presentation outlines what COS are and why they are important for health psychology. It will do so by drawing on examples from recent and on-going research, including a recently developed COS for infant feeding interventions to prevent childhood obesity. Synergies between COS and health psychology will also be presented, including a review current state-of-the-art and a new project using the Behaviour Change Wheel to identify and prioritise strategies for enhancing COS uptake in health research. This project uses existing literature to identify intervention functions and behaviour change techniques to enhance COS use, that are then prioritised by stakeholders in a consensus meeting.

Findings: COS use can improve evidence syntheses and evaluation of effectiveness of health psychology interventions. COS can also reduce research waste, selective outcome reporting and outcome heterogeneity in health psychology research, because COS are the minimum outcomes that should be measured and reported. Similarly, COS can enhance open science conduct in health psychology research. Health psychology can also inform COS use, via behaviour change strategies and approaches to enhance COS uptake.

Discussion: COS have potential to enhance health psychology research, including how we conduct evidence syntheses, determine what interventions are effective (or not), and engage Open Science practices. Health psychology can also contribute to the development and uptake of COS and can therefore inform and be informed by COS use, with important impact and benefits for both.