LAHORE - Speakers at the opening ceremony of a three-day international conference on ‘Health Psychology: Issues and Challenges’ at the Government College University (GCU) Wednesday laid a stress on expanding the role of health psychologists in education and health sectors to modify human behaviors.

“Despite the realization for overall unhealthy lifestyles, increasing ratio of chronic illnesses and escalating health care costs, the government is yet to focus on health psychology which help modify human behavior that has been implicated in the chronic illness, relieve pain, reduce stress, improve compliance with medicine and teach patients and family members to live with chronic diseases, said Dr Syeda Shahida Batool, the Chairperson of GCU Phycology Department in her inaugural address.

Scholars and faculty members from 35 universities of Pakistan and delegates from Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada are participating in the three-day conference jointly organized by the GCU Psychology Department, Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC), Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HEC) and Punjab AIDS Control Program.

The conference is spread over fifteen scientific sessions and six invited talks by eminent foreign psychologists.

Addressing the conference, Dr Batool, the chief organizer of the conference, highlighted that there was no scope of health psychology in Pakistan while standards of training of health psychologists were undefined. He said the role of health psychologists in the hospitals was not well-defined and sometimes it was confused with that of clinical psychologists.

In his presidential address at the opening ceremony, Punjab Minister for Higher Education Mr Raza Ali Gillani said that health psychology is broad field that covers multiple issues related to social, emotional and physical well-being.


He hoped that this prestigious gathering of scholars and professionals would avail this responsibility and make recommendations to the government for meeting the challenges to their education and health care systems. He also said it was psychologists’ duty to reform the society.

Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah said that the university had received more than 300 quantitative and qualitative research papers for the conference on coping stress, heart diseases, hypertension, cancer, eating disorders, infertility, arthritis, HIV/AIDS, diabetics, burden of care, and assessment issues in healthy psychology. He said that these papers would add to their understanding that how psychological, behavioral and cultural factors contribute to physical health and illness of individuals.

In his key note address, Prof. Dr. Syed Ashiq Ali Shah from Kwantlen Polytechnic University British Columbia, Canada, highlighted the impact of psychosocial-cultural Influences on physical and mental health. He said arrogance, prejudice, xenophobia, and aggression eradicates happiness from life while gratitude, thankfulness, sincerity, love, and respect toward others are the source of true happiness in life.

Dr Barabara Keller from University of Bielefeld, Germany said health was not just absence of disease but the presence of positive well-being and movement towards positive directions. She said that this psycho-biosocial model of health had made health psychology a diversified but specialized field. She also believed faith and religion had key role in strong mental health of individuals.

Adnan Zafar Khan, the Additional Secretary of Health Department, Punjab also laid a stress on expanding the role of health psychology, saying that one major challenge to mental health professionals was to manage chronic illnesses like cancer, arthritis, coronary heart disease, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS. “To my view, this one of the major segments of population with chronic illness has largely been ignored while making health polices,” he said.