Approved by University Studies Sub-Committee.  A2C2 action pending.

University Studies Course Proposal


Department: Psychology

Course Number: 298

Number of Credits: 3

Frequency: Yearly

Course Title: Health Psychology

Course Description: We will: explore the specialty area of health psychology, examine the effects of stress on wellness and illness as well as stress management procedures, discuss lifestyle factors that enhance health and that compromise health, look at the role of the patient in the health care system, investigate adaptation to chronic and terminal illnesses.

Existing Course/

A2C2 Approval? Yes

New Proposal? No

Requested approval: Science and Social Policy

Contact Person: Kristi Lane, Ph.D.

Description of requirements and learning activities that promote students’ abilities to:

1. understand the scientific foundation of the topic


Psychology is the science of human behavior and, as such, offers an opportunity to study the influence of lifestyle choices and psychological factors on health and illness. Health psychology is less than one-quarter century old but has established a vast amount of scientific information (i.e., The Journal of Health Psychology) in that time. Each unit in Health Psychology incorporates understanding the scientific foundation of the topic. The first unit will address several issues that Health Psychology exemplifies. First, we discuss the issue of the paradigm shift. In the early parts of the twentieth century most serious diseases were caused by contact with viruses and bacteria. Personal responsibility for disease was minimized as avoiding microorganisms was nearly impossible. As we enter the twenty-first century the situation has changed and the focus is on individual behavior. Health psychology is the scientific study of behaviors that relate to health enhancement and disease prevention. Second, we look at the methodologies of Health Psychology. One (of many) that we review is the issue of correlation versus causation. We examine this issue in light of clinical research and discuss the issue of directionality. In doing so, we examine the bias of using an anecdote as confirmation of a belief. Second, we examine the scientific use of the clinical case study . Finally, we discuss issues such as peer review, control groups, and meta-analysis. We emphasize the importance of analyzing assumptions and biases—our own and possibly of the research we are reading.

In each of the four units in the course we refer to the research that guides the practice of Health Psychology.

2. understand the social, ethical, historical, and/or political implications


Health Psychology is a venue for examining whether we integrate new information into our ideologies especially when the data we gather conflict with ‘life long’ beliefs. The field of Health Psychology is particularly appropriate to this endeavor. Each unit in the course has at least one issue that challenges student beliefs. For example, the Brannon textbook has boxes in each chapter labeled "Would you believe…". The purpose of the boxes is to highlight an intriguing finding in health psychology. In part, these boxes serve to challenge students to examine the data and thereby challenge existing beliefs that are based on historical data and/or normative social behavior.

3. understand and articulate the need to integrate issues of science with social policy


As Health Psychology has gathered knowledge related to biopsychosocial factors in enhancing health and compromising health many changes to the health care system have been promoted. For example, Unit I discusses that medicine itself is becoming more sensitive to psychological factors in the practice of medicine. In 1978 there were only 2 medical schools that offered courses related to health psychology. The count in the past year indicated that Health Psychology is offered in over 50 medical schools. In Unit II we discuss research that Psychology research deals with issues such as compliance and adherence to medical regimes. Why do individuals comply with the doctor’s order, or fail to do so? This issue is dealt with in several ways. First, it is seen from the individual viewpoint. In each unit we examine the clinical case study. Second, the issue is dealt with as an educational issue—how can medical personnel increase the likelihood of patient compliance. The issue is then examined from the perspective of current practice. For example, class discussion focuses on current practice, or policy, such as pharmacists providing extensive drug information and physicians providing increased numbers of written directions for the patient.

4. evaluate the various policy options relevant to the social dilemmas posed by the science


Many examples of this item are discussed throughout the course. It seems that we like ‘universals’ to endorse and to guide our behavior. For example, alcohol is bad. This message has been used as a deterrent to drinking. However much we may like (or dislike) the message does not make it true. In Unit III, we discuss research that sets parameters on the use of alcohol and then determines if any positive and/or negative results follow. Another social dilemma is the policy implications of the increased behavioral responsibility of the individual for prevention of some illness. In Unit II, we examine what treatments are covered by insurance carriers and how, or if, current coverage relates to research data. We discuss the changes in the definition of ‘health care provider’ as exemplified by broadening coverage (in some limited insurance plans) to include non-traditional therapies. Unit IV discusses obesity. We evaluate social norms that contribute to bias against obese individuals and, according to some research, leads to the prevalence of eating disorders.


5. articulate, choose among, and defend various policy and/or scientific options to cope with the challenges created


In order to develop skills to examine and science and social policy students will practice applying critical thinking skills to the area of Health Psychology. For example, in Unit I we will examine the importance of defining terms, avoiding emotional reasoning, analyzing biases, avoiding over-simplification, considering other interpretations, and learning to tolerate uncertainty. Several excellent examples of this are found in Unit II when we discuss the chronic illnesses HIV and Alzheimer's disease.



Course Description/Syllabus for PSY 298

On the following pages is a sample syllabus for PSY 298. The syllabus identifies the course as a USP Science and Social Policy course, and it identifies the topics/activities that address each of the required course outcomes.



Psychology 298

Health Psychology

Sample Syllabus



Prerequisites: Passing 210 General Psychology

Instructor: Dr. Lane

Office: Phelps 231 H: MTWRF----: and by appointment


Phone: 457-5454 457-5435

(Hours: main office open MTWRF 7:30-4:00)

leave messages on voice mail--name, course,message)


Course Web site:




We will: explore the scientific foundation of the specialty area of health psychology, examine the effects of stress on wellness and illness as well as stress management procedures, discuss lifestyle factors that enhance health and that compromise health, look at the role of the patient in the health care system, investigate adaptation to chronic and terminal illnesses.


Course Outcomes

Psychology 298: Health Psychology has been approved by the University Studies Program as a Unity and Diversity: Science and Social Policy course. As a Science and Social Policy course, Health Psychology will promote students’ abilities to:

1. Understand the scientific foundation of the topic.

2. Understand the social, ethical, historical, and/or political implications.

3. Understand and articulate the need to integrate issues of science with social policy.

4. Evaluate the various policy options relevant to the social dilemmas posed by the science, and

5. Articulate, choose among, and defend various policy and/or scientific options to cope with the challenges created.




Brannon, L. & Feist, J. (2000). Health Psychology: An Introduction to Behavior and Health. (4th Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole



1. Scantrons must be provided by the student per Psychology Department policy. The large green scantrons only are used in this class. The student must have a scantron available for each test. In the event the machine cannot read the scantron (due to rips, folds, etc.) it will be the student's responsibility to see the instructor.

2. Course pack will contain study terms, video guides. Check the web.


Disabled Students: Any student with a disability will be accommodated within ADA guidelines. Students should see the instructor the first week of class.


Course Goals:

1. The class period will utilize lecture, video, printed cases, and overheads. Lectures will facilitate the organization, synthesis and critical points of the text. The lectures are meant to provide a conceptual base of understanding. They cannot cover everything! There is NO intent to read chapters to you! Case illustrations, based on research and experience, may be utilized with lectures. Video cases may be used to illustrate the human side of the diagnostic categories.

2. Students should increase their ability to critically evaluate information regarding: a. lifestyle factors and health; b. adjunctive treatments for illness; c. patient roles and responsibilities for health.

3. Students should challenge their attitudes, beliefs, and expectations about health care.

4. Students need to learn a number of facts about the: models, methods, illnesses, stress, compliance, psychosocial support, and behaviors that present risk/protection.



Grading/Class Policy:

Grades are based upon several factors. The first factor is the total number of points accumulated on exams. The second factor is participation in class activities and in the completion of homework. Finally, attendance is a small percent (3-5 %) in determining final grades. The grade is assigned by utilizing a curve of all the points earned in the course. The curve is:

A 90 % and higher

B 80 - 89 %

C 70 - 79 %

D 60 - 69 %

This curve is based upon the percentage obtained from the average of the total number of points and the highest earned score on each test. Curves for homework and participation and attendance are based upon point totals.

It is recommended that students drop the course if they are failing at drop day. Grades are available to students within 24-36 working hours of the exam. Grades are posted on the grades bulletin board (second floor Phelps) and electronically. Students may view their test in the psychology office. If a dispute arises the student should submit a written dispute with documentation within one week of the test.



At WSU, you are expected to have an e-mail account. This means you have access to the WEB. One assignment will require that you obtain information from the WEB. Other assignments will encourage the use of the web. Below is a sample of web based information on Stress and Health.

Stress and Health (sample list: see my course1 web site for longer list)

The Society of Behavioral Medicine

The Post Traumatic Stress Resources Web Page


The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

The Longevity Game



1. Last day to drop:

2. Mid-term day:

3. Final exam:



I recommend that you find two students who agree to share course material with you should you miss class.


1. ____________________ phone_____________

2. ____________________ phone ______________



Unit Summary

Unit I

Chapters: 1, 2, 5, 6, 8

Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Topics: Research in Health Psychology

Stress: Biopsychosocial Model

Assessing Stress


Coping: Theory and Clinical Applications


Unit II

Chapters: 3, 4, 9, 10, 11

Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 5

Topics: Cardiovascular Disease


Chronic Illness: HIV, Alzheimer's

Seeking Medical Advice

Adhering to Medical Advice



Unit III

Chapters: 13, 14

Outcomes: 1, 2, 4

Topics: Patient Behaviors

Addiction: Nicotine and Alcohol

Treatment Models: Biopsychosocial Approach


Unit IV

Chapters: 15, 16

Outcomes: 1, 2, 4

Topics: Sociocultural Factors in Weight Control

Management of Obesity

Anorexia and Bulimia