Public health promotion in developing countries: recent findings, challenges, and opportunities for health psychology


  • J. Inauen
  • A.M. Müller
  • J. Slekiene
  • M. Harter
  • M. Friedrich
  • M. de Barra


Aims: This symposium aims at putting the research topic of public health promotion in developing countries on the map of health psychologists. We will present cutting-edge research, and seek to inspire thought on how health psychology theories and methods can be applied to developing countries. In turn, we will highlight how theory can benefit from research in this context. Finally, we will discuss challenges, and how they need to be addressed to ensure rigorous research in this innovative field. Rationale: Developing countries face a double disease burden. With more than two billion people drinking contaminated water, practicing open defecation, or with poor hand hygiene, infectious diseases are still major causes of mortality. Non-communicable diseases, on the other hand, are on the rise, and medical practitioners often lack appropriate training to treat these. It is therefore high time that health psychology contributes to understanding and promoting better public health in developing countries. Summary: In his opening discussion, André Müller will introduce the audience to health-behaviour change research in developing countries, highlighting opportunities for new research, including the use of innovative approaches, such as mHealth. Next, Jurgita Slekiene will present an approach to develop theory-based and evidence-based behaviour change interventions at the example of mitigating the Ebola epidemic in Guinea-Bissau. Miriam Harter will then show data from a cluster-randomized trial on the efficacy of a theory-based, community-led intervention to eradicate open defecation practices. Afterwards, Max Friedrich will present results from a school-based cluster-randomized trial on the effects and psychological mediators of a theory-based intervention on handwashing and microbial hand cleanliness. Micheal de Barra will subsequently present empirical research on medical overuse by informal health workers and patient satisfaction in Bangladesh. Finally, Jennifer Inauen will facilitate a roundtable discussion on the opportunities and challenges for health psychology research in developing countries.