Health psychology as a discipline has existed for more than four decades and is primarily concerned with research, theory, and practice at the nexus of psychology and health. The discipline is well established across Europe, the United States, and Australia with health psychology societies, postgraduate programmes, conferences, and academic journals dedicated to the discipline in the majority of these countries. However, in South Africa, health psychology remains a broad umbrella term under which psychologists and other health care professionals conduct research. Health psychology is concerned with the biological, social, psychological, contextual, and structural drivers of health and illness, and relies on theory and empirically-driven research to identify and understand important links between health and behaviour. In South Africa, where a large proportion of the population faces multiple co-occurring disease epidemics, such as HIV/AIDS, TB, COVID-19, diabetes, and heart disease, there is a need for a uniting sub-discipline like health psychology to focus intervention efforts and to meet the sustainable development goals. The recent re-establishment of a special interest group in health psychology in the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) is an important first step. In this article, and as members of the newly re-established special interest group in health psychology, we call attention to the need to promote health psychology in South Africa. In this article, we describe the paradigmatic traditions and theoretical models that inform the discipline. We then argue why health psychology should be prioritised again and recommend future directions for health psychology in South Africa.

Share This