HAR680: Contemporary Health Psychology and Behaviour Change


Health psychology is a rapidly growing field of study as there is increasing awareness amongst health professionals of the need to focus on social and psychological as well as biomedical aspects of illness. This module provides an introduction to contemporary research in this area, covering both traditional mainstream approaches and newly emerging critical studies, with practical implications for public health. Topics covered include: approaches within health psychology; contemporary, traditional and policy approaches to health behaviour change; communication between health professionals and patients; the experiential aspects of illness; stress and health; and the application and relevance of contemporary work in global and cultural context.


To develop a critical understanding of the range of perspectives and approaches in contemporary health psychology.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module a candidate will be able to demonstrate:

  • Apply contemporary developments in health psychology to public health problems
  • Compare and contrast differing theoretical approaches and assess their relative strengths and weaknesses in relation to healthcare policy and practice
  • Describe and evaluate debates concerning the relationship between psychological dimensions of health and the social and cultural context (including the public health policy context)

Teaching Methods

The unit is taught weekly in 2-hour blocks using a combination of lectures and seminars. Lectures will be used to impart knowledge and understanding of the principles of health psychology.  Seminars will be used to allow students to further explore the practical aspects.  On some weeks a 'flipped classroom' will be used, where students effectively access the 'lecture' component online prior to the classroom session and the classroom session will be devoted to discussion and assimilation/application of knowledge.

A key component will be an assessed group project to be undertaken by students that will require them to independently research and review the literature, and to design an intervention based on the principles of comtemporary of health psychology, which will then be explored further through the production of an individual essay.


Students are expected to attend all 12 taught sessions (including the online learning to cover the week of face-to-face contact missed due to the May Day Bank Holiday) and also conduct group work with fellow students and work independently on the essay. To this end, students are expected to demonstrate independent learning that goes beyond the content of the taught sessions and also to demonstrate teamwork skills and the ability to think critically rather than merely reproduce lecture content. Thus in addition to the 24 hours of teaching, students will be expected to spend around 26 hours doing group work and approximately 100 hours studying independently throughout the course of the semester, including time spent preparing for the tutorials each week and for the essay.


Component Weighting
Peer reviewed assignment (500 words - formative) 0%
Poster (group) 40%
Essay (1,500 words) 60%

A0 poster (group work) on a related topic (from a selection or may choose own, which the Module Co-ordinator will approve) (40%) plus 500-word formative assignment, with peer review and reflection on peer feedback.

A 1,500 word essay reflecting on the group work from a theoretical perspective (60%).

The pass mark is 50%.