Closer cooperation between scientific disciplines is the key to improving healthcare

Conventional health care still isn’t utilising mankind’s full potential to improve our health. Collaboration with other disciplines, like psychology, is not receiving the attention it should, even though psychological factors partly determine  whether or not treatments will be effective. Professor of Health Psychology Andrea Evers is therefore calling for the total implementation of Human Potential.

Psychological factors affect our health

Professor Andrea Evers

Professor Andrea Evers

In her inaugural lecture on 31 October, Evers will be emphasising the influence of psychological factors such as, for instance, the placebo effect on the state of our health. She will also explain how our immune systems can be directly influenced through psychological processes. And she’ll talk about the innovative treatments that use this to our advantage. This knowledge can also be directly applied to conventional medical practices. Far more than is currently the case, interdisciplinary research, education and healthcare need to be promoted to achieve this.

Calling for an interdisciplinary approach

Evers is a strong advocate of the many benefits of interdisciplinary approaches, which allow us to optimally use our Human Potential. In her lecture she will highlight the tremendous gap between up-to-date scientific knowledge and how much of that is currently being used in conventional healthcare. Her examples emphasize the fact that the combined expertise of the arts, sciences and humanities still isn’t finding enough practical applications.

Unknown effects of treatment

At the moment, we still don’t know for sure why many forms of treatment work the way they do. Antidepressants or painkillers, for instance, could have about as much effect as a placebo. In those situations, it is not the active ingredients in the medication that determine the outcome of medical treatment, but other factors, such as the doctor’s confidence in a certain medicine, your own expectations, or previous experiences with doctors.

Unused potential

At the moment, conventional healthcare pays hardly any attention to such factors. However, knowledge of effects like that of placebos could enable us to optimise treatment and decrease the negative results of medical treatments, such as side effects. Furthermore, the attitudes of patients are changing. They want to be involved in the decision-making process and do as much as they can. And yet, there’s little room for them to contribute anything, even though demand for, and cost of, healthcare continues to increase.

A mini symposium on interdisciplinary sciences

Before the inaugural lecture, members of The Youth Academy, part of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), will be giving interdisciplinary lectures on the theme of Human Potential. This mini symposium seeks to demonstrate the power of unexpected approaches, creative interpretations and the added value interdisciplinary methods bring to scientific progress.

Programme Interdisciplinary lectures in science (in Dutch)
Inaugural lecture prof.dr. Andrea W.M. Evers (in Dutch)

Video: Can change your attitude, thoughts and behaviour to feel less sick?

We still know only very little about the correlation between psychology and medical science. Health psychologist Andrea Evers studies how our thoughts and behaviour can be used to improve our health. Through this approach, she aims to find  out how we can optimise our own health. Watch the video from The Young Academy

(28 October 2014)

See also

Leiden Psychology Blog

By Estúdio Horácio Novais via Flickr

By Estúdio Horácio Novais via Flickr

In an increasingly complex healthcare system, with a growing number of patients with one or more chronic conditions, the call for innovative treatment options is growing. The answer? Collaboration!
The blind men and the elephant: Optimising healthcare by combining knowledge and ingredients

(29 October 2014/ Henriët van Middendorp)

Last Modified: 03-11-2014