The Similarities and Comparisons in Community Psychology

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1. Introduction

To answer the question of what are the similarities and differences between community psychology and public health to social problems. We will have a brief look at the historical background of both community psychology and public health to gain an understanding of how they came to be. We will then look into the models and/or approaches to both community psychology and public health and see how they compare and contrast with one another.

2. Historical development

In the United States of America, Community Psychology was largely influenced by mental health reform movements. The three movements that were most influential led to the developments of particular types of institutions were: Therapeutic mental hospitals in the ‘Moral Treatment’ era in the early 1800`s, Child Guidance Clinics in the ‘Mental Hygiene’ era in the early 1900`s, and Community Health Centres in the ‘Deinstitutionalisation’ era in the 1960`s. These movements were the influential move toward mental illness as a social rather than an individual one-on-one problem as well as the influential move toward prevention rather than cure.

This is one of the similarities that Public health has with Community Psychology, of being prevention focused rather than curative focused. One of the differences is that Public Health was largely influenced by the western or biomedical model of illness, which is an understanding that diseases and distress are a result of lesions within the mind or body which is caused by an interaction between the ill person, the disease causing agent and the external social and environmental context.

3. The difference Approaches/Models to social problems Community

Psychology has two approaches that we will discuss and that is the Mental Health Model and the Social Action Model. The Public Health has four approaches that we will look into and those are, Sanitary Science, Social Medicine, Community Health and The new Public Health: A social-ecological model.

3. 1. Community Psychology

3. 1. 1. Mental Health Model.

The mental approach is based on the prevention of mental illness which can be seen in the disruption of normal living patterns. It assumes that mental illness is a product of the interaction between individual and environmental factors. It strives to prevent mental disorders by developing and strengthening human resources that include entire populations, small groups and/or organisations within them. It focuses on implementing programs to improve and develop coping skills, psychosocial skills and crises management ex.

3. 1. 2. The Social Action Model

The Social Action Model is based on the prevention of mental illness which can be seen in the social inequalities, economic exploitation and political powerlessness of communities and this powerlessness of the poor makes self-actualisation unrealistic. Therefore its prevention of mental illness is to empower communities at Large by making social resources available to the poor.

3. 2. The Public Health Approach

3. 2. 1. Sanitary Science

The Sanitary Science approach is based on the prevention of disease by trying to prevent ‘Microbes’ from breeding and going into the bodies of people. They tried to do this by managing the movement of human waste products (sweat, urine, faeces, exhaled air), by laying down laws and regulations.

3. 2. 2. Social Medicine

The Social Medicine approach is based on the prevention of disease by educating and training of men, women and children on various health skills. They assumed everyone shared the same western scientific beliefs and ideals.

3. 2. 3. Community Health

The community health approach is based on understanding the behaviour of individuals within their traditions, customs and beliefs, whereby individuals and or communities differ. Their focus was on the community at large.

3. 2. 4. New Public Health – A Sociological Model

The public health approach is based on the social and ecological forces, such as industrialisation, environmental damage, inequalities in education and employment opportunities and over population. These forces are believed to influence communities in being socialised into behaving in certain ways and accepting them as normal. Therefore the public health approach intervenes on a national level as well as intervenes on the unique conditions of the community.

4. The similarities between Community Psychology and the Public Health approach

As stated earlier, one of the biggest similarities is that they are prevention focused rather than curative focused. The Mental Health approach in Community Psychology is very similar to the sanitary science, Social Medicine and the Community Health in Public Health Approach by being focused on the Individual and the community.

It is believed in these approaches that if they can help the individual and communities to change living condition they will prevent mental illness. The Social Action Model in Community Psychology is very similar to the New Public Health in the Public Health Approach in that they focus on the national, political level of intervention. They believe that if they can change the way Government influences various communities it can make a change to those communities outlook in life and prevent mental illness.

5. The difference between Community Psychology and the Public Health Approach

One of the main differences is that Community Psychology focuses on the mental health of the individual, whereas the Public Health focuses on the diseases and distress of the individual.

6. Conclusion

Having looked at the similarities and differences between Community Psychology and Public Health we found that the end goal or aim is the same, which is to prevent the oppressed from suffering mentally and physically and to contribute equally to society. I think the best would be to combine the best of all the approaches. Firstly to focus on the national level, how political forces play a major role in the oppressive and exploitive social and economic structures and secondly to focus on the individual factors such as health and on psychosocial skills and empowerment. To focus on the global and individual levels is the key to success in trying to prevent social problems.

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