Community Psychology and Public Health Approaches to Social Problems in South Africa

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My aim in this paper is to analyse community psychology and public health and distinguish between the two approaches. Community Psychology focuses on economic, environmental, political and social factors that influence the way in which people all over the world live their lives. It also touches on social factors that contribute or causes problems in various societies. Public Health on the other hand, according to Tutorial Letter 102/0/2014, is defined as being concerned with “preventing disease and distress” in the community as a whole, not just the individual, before they occur. It promotes healthy living and with the prevention of illness linked with lifestyle.

To compare these two concepts, one should first have a basic understanding of the origins and historical development of community psychology and public health.

Community Psychology are very much linked with the mental health reform movements in the USA. The three most important reform movements were; ‘Moral Treatment’, ‘The Mental Hygiene’ and ‘Deinstitutionalisation’. Each of these movements have led to the establishment of particular types of institution: In the Moral Treatment era, we got therapeutic mental hospitals, the Mental Hygiene era gave us Child Guidance Clinics and the establishment of Community Health Centers came in the Deinstitutionalisation era (Tutorial Letter 102/0/2014).

Public health, like community psychology, focuses on prevention of disease. It is defined as “the science and practice of
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