Translating health psychology during a pandemic

Manchester experts are supporting health and social care with psychology knowledge and skills to support responses to COVID-19.

A UK-wide collaborative of health psychologists including The University of Manchester has been coordinating nationwide efforts with various partners, including county and city councils, to provide behavioural science input for public health advice since the outbreak of COVID-19.

HPX logo

The Health Psychology Exchange (HPX) collaborative, which now has 155 members, was established by Professor Lucie Byrne-Davis and Professor Jo Hart from Manchester’s School of Medical Sciences, along with partners at the University of Bedfordshire. HPX have offered health psychology knowledge and skills to health and social care organisations during the pandemic.

Health psychologists from The University of Manchester are also members of the British Psychological Society (BPS) taskforce for behavioural science and disease prevention, providing national guidance for policy makers, professionals and the public.

Resource sharing and rapid reviews

Since its launch in spring 2020, the group has used resource sharing on the Open Science Framework to reduce repetition and to pool resources that were being rapidly gathered and produced.

The group have produced three rapid reviews on public health messaging, health app uptake and reflective practice; authored two articles for The Psychologist and produced an editorial for the British Journal of Health Psychology.

The BPS taskforce has produced 12 guidance documents including six on encouraging healthy behaviours during the pandemic as it enters its second wave. These guidance documents have been widely disseminated nationally and internationally, some targeted directly to the public and some to policy makers and public health practitioners.

Collaborating with key service providers

In total, HPX has worked with 17 organisations, including local councils, charities and NHS trusts to support COVID‐19 response activities. These organisations had a variety of requirements related directly to the pandemic including preventing psychological harm of COVID‐19 on their staff, increasing the likelihood that public health messaging would support protective behaviours. Looking beyond the virus itself, organisations asked for support to develop services and policies to reduce the impact of lockdown on physical health and health behaviours.

HPX and the BPS taskforce have also liaised with Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which provides scientific and technical advice to support government decision makers during emergencies.

University of Manchester academics collaborating with the Health Psychology Exchange: Professor Chris Armitage, Professor Lucie Byrne-Davis, Dr Tracy Epton, Professor Jo Hart, Dr Chris Keyworth, Dr Jacqueline Lavallee and Dr Fiona Ulph.

University of Manchester members of the BPS taskforce for behavioural science and disease prevention: Professor Chris Armitage, Professor Lucie Byrne-Davis, Dr Tracy Epton and Professor Jo Hart.

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Meet the researchers