In the UK, government and various agencies are trying to tackle obesity, improve sexual health and reduce the number of people smoking, with limited success. Globally, the World Health Organisation aims to spread the word about good health and disease prevention. So why do people knowingly continue to behave in ways which result in unnecessary suffering and premature death?
The challenge of bridging the mismatch between health policies and the daily realities of people's lives is at the heart of a new one year full-time master's programme, to begin at the London School of Economics and Political Science this autumn. The course pays particular attention to the role of citizen participation and collective action in bridging this 'missing link'.
The new MSc in Health, Community and Development will take its first students in October 2005 and will be jointly based in the School's Department of Social Psychology and LSE's development studies institute, DESTIN.
The aim is for graduates to go on to careers in NGOs, government health departments and aid agencies in the UK and across the world. They will be armed with an understanding of the social psychological dimensions of health and social development, and of the way in which these insights can be used to build social environments that support, rather than discourage, people from taking care of their health. A unique aspect of the programme will be its global focus.
Students on this new MSc will also benefit from the first hand, contemporary experience of lecturers already involved in a range of projects seeking to improve health and well-being in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Eastern Europe as well as the UK .
Professor Cathy Campbell, a professor of social psychology with expertise in AIDS healthcare, is heading the programme. She said: 'The fields of public health and social development have too often been dominated by narrowly individualistic models and theories of individual and social change, drawing on outdated North American and European theories.
'We are committed to promoting new understandings of the complex ways in which social conditions undermine health. We argue that a key dimension of changing individuals involves working with them to create environments that encourage and enable people to adopt healthier behaviour.'
Course contributor Dr Sandra Jovchelovitch, an expert on community participation, said: 'The topics we will address in this new MSc relate to development in a very wide range of countries, given that there are pockets of development and underdevelopment in countries both north and south of the Equator. We hope this wide comparative perspective will empower students, providing them with a kaleidoscope of case studies to debate and learn from.'
Contact Daniel Linehan, Department of Social Psychology, on 020 7955 7712 .
27 January 2005