Career File: Christine Stephens

Chris is one of the founding ISCHP members. She is currently Treasurer and has also been Chair. Currently, she is a Professor in the School of Psychology at Massey University in New Zealand–considered the cradle of critical health psychology. She co-leads the Health and Ageing Research Team, who has been conducting a longitudinal study of ageing, following older New Zealanders and their quality of life since 2006. In this Career File, Chris shares how she got to be where she is today.

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Taboo-busting: Menopause

By Hilary Baxter, March, 2019

Fig 1: Still image from Puzzled promo film © Hilary Baxter 2018.

The menopause is not sexy.

Searching for open access pictures of menopausal women generates photographs of mainly anxious expressions. Broadly speaking, from this snapshot of instant culture the menopause is often defined by frowny faces; definitely not sexy. This bad mood stereotype might be countered by evidence of non-frowny women on TV programmes, in films and other forms of mass visual culture; except here we note an absence. The 2015 Ofcom report1 on the BBC highlighted that women over the age of 55 were seen less frequently and more negatively than males of the same age. In the top 100 grossing US films of 20172there were 33 female leads or co-leads of which only five were over the age of 45. The erasure of mid-life woman from everyday screen cultures is echoed in newspapers and even museum collections. This invisibility linked to silence about experiences and haphazard information sources renders menopause as a taboo subject.

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Career file: Brett Scholz


Brett taking a moment to sit and watch the railway on a recent getaway to Darjeeling.

Brett Scholz is a research fellow in the Medical School at The Australian National University. His work is concerned with consumer leadership in health services and systems, and the allyship that non-consumers can engage in to create opportunities for consumer leadership. He is one of the co-editors of ISCHP’s podcast The Operative Word. He can never say no to a cup of tea.

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Hungry in hospital: Parents go without meals as hospitals pinch pennies

Addressing the social injustices that underpin health issues has become a priority of growing urgency for socially-responsive health psychologists. Alongside growing inequality across the globe, the issue of food insecurity has become more important. In Aotearoa (New Zealand), Rebekah Graham’s research on the everyday experiences of families facing food insecurity highlights food as an important social determinant of health. In this post, she considers an aspect of these families’ experiences that has been taken-for-granted in health: what happens when a child goes to hospital?

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Career file: Ally Gibson

Ally Gibson, is a long-time ISCHP member and co-host of the ISCHP pod-cast. Originally hailing from South Africa, Ally has just taken up a lectureship in the recently established School of Health at Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand).  Prior to this, she held a postdoctoral fellowship in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW Sydney (Australia), where she also coordinated the Qualitative Research Network Hub.  We asked Ally about her career path, experiences, and thoughts about working as an academic.

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Embodiment, disability and growing old

By Wendy Stainton Rogers, December, 2018

John Cromby, in his book Feeling Bodies: Embodying Psychology makes a strong argument for developing an embodied psychology – ‘one that takes seriously the observation that absolutely all experience depends upon our living bodies for its very character, as well as its mere possibility’ (Cromby, 2015: 7).

As someone who has a severely damaged and dysfunctional body I feel strongly that we critical health psychologists need to take a lot more notice of people’s lived experience of their bodies. At times, I think, we get so deeply embroiled in fascinating analyses of, for example, the misuse of power, and the need for social justice (to mention just two of our preoccupations) we fail to take account of the fundamental materiality of being human.  But it isn’t that simple, as I explain here.

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A sobering take on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome awareness campaigns

By Pieter Bredenkamp & Nicola Jearey-Graham

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“1 in 10 South African babies are born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). What if unborn children could warn their mothers about the dangers of drinking while pregnant? Because not even one drink is worth a lifetime of suffering.” This is the premise of a recent social marketing campaign featured on the website of a leading South African brewer. The campaign includes a video intended to increase awareness of the effects of alcohol on the developing foetus and urges pregnant women to act responsibly. Continue reading

Hitting un-mute: let’s talk about the impact of abusive teaching evaluations

Britta WiggintonThis blog post is written by guest blogger, Britta Wigginton. In an increasingly neo-liberalised university system, which relies on student satisfaction to generate profit, there are real concerns about the emphasis that is put on student evaluations, and what this means for teaching practices. In increased environments of sessional teaching and (usually unpaid) ‘guest’ lecturing, as well as a push for TED-talk-esque teaching styles and the use of latest teaching styles (such as the flipped classroom), teaching feels as if ‘effective’ teaching now requires a degree in performance arts! In this post, Britta reflects on the experience of being the target of student evaluations, and whether the expectations that are put on academics for ‘teaching excellence’ is actually reasonable. This is sure to be a topic that is close to the hearts and experience of many ISCHP members – feel free to share your stories and perspectives in the comments.

Dr Wigginton is a Lecturer in Health Promotion at the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland. You can follow Britta’s research on Twitter, ResearchGate and through UQ.edu.au.
Image credit: deathbulge.com

It has taken me a while to gather the courage to write and publish this blog, and ultimately to discuss something that feels raw and anxiety provoking. I lean on my fellow feminist academics who talk back to the academy, and from there attempt to write from a place of strength.

Rosalind Gill (2015) talks about the hidden injuries of the neoliberal university. She unearths feelings of exhaustion, stress, anxiety, shame, anger and feelings of fraudulence – all of which, she argues, remain secret in the public spaces of the academy. I want to use this blog to un-mute a particular topic, one that I have been tempted to stay silent on: abusive teaching evaluations. Continue reading

Everything sexy might be dangerous… but let’s talk about intimacy, pleasure and relationships too

By Kristi Urry

pleasureHealth researchers love to talk about risk and danger, and so do I. Risk and danger are often important issues that require a lot of thought, especially in the context of sexual health and mental health. But I wonder if we spend too much time focusing on all the bad stuff about sex and not enough on the good; too much time on the deficits and not enough on the opportunities. In my PhD research I’ve been exploring issues of sexual expression in mental health settings and I often find myself wondering, usually while deep-diving in the relevant sexual health literature, where is the pleasure, the intimacy, and the relation to self and others? Continue reading

Health Research: Where Medicine Meets Martial Arts Studies?

By George Jennings

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The martial arts may appear mysterious or homogenous at first glance

Why Medical Research Needs Martial Arts Studies

 We all know what medical research involves, or at least we think we do. It is well established around the world as a dominant worldview to understand the psychological and biological world. It can ask and answer questions relating to physical health, the structure of the body, the reasons behind illness and ways to cure or offset it. But can it really pose and solve all problems relating to health? Rapid weight loss among athletes, concussion in training and competition and novel forms of movement therapy have obvious physical components, but perhaps also sociocultural, historical and even geopolitical ones. Continue reading

Marketing ‘childhood obesity’ and ‘health’

By Darren Powell 

It seems like not a day goes by when I read or hear about ‘junk food’ marketing and the effect this is having on ‘childhood obesity’. The dominant narrative tends to go like this: ‘Children today are too fat. Children’s over consumption of junk food is the main cause. The marketing of junk food is a significant part of the problem. Removing junk food marketing is an obvious solution.’

A number of countries across the Global North (such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) have introduced regulatory controls on food and drink marketing that relates to ‘junk food’ – products deemed too high in fat, sugar and salt (also known as HFSS). (And when I say regulatory controls, in most cases this means self-regulation by the advertising industry.) Continue reading

Book review: Laura Ellingson (2017). Embodiment in qualitative research. Routledge.

Book review by Craig Owen

Ellingson photo

In this text, Laura Ellingson provides a theoretical approach, a methodological philosophy, and a range of practical tips and examples for how to attend to the meaningful presence of your own and your research participants’ bodies throughout all stages of the research process.

Laura starts by taking a poststructuralist approach to theorising embodiment. She calls on us to recognise how the body is always in a process of becoming, a liminal state that is shifting and never fixed or finalised. The goal of research on embodiment is thus to shine a light on this dynamic process, to capture snapshots of these transitions, changes and movements of the body over time.

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Introducing ISCHP’s Podcast: The Operative Word

Brett Scholz (University of Canberra), Britta Wigginton (University of Queensland), and Ally Gibson (UNSW Sydney)

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At ISCHP (the International Society of Critical Health Psychology) conferences, conversations inevitably circulate around how to break down existing paywalls, geographical boundaries, and the institutional privileges that disallow or constrain access to academic knowledge. Indeed, flattening academic power structures and promoting fairness are some of the values that characterise ISCHP as an academic community. As critical scholars, we are all too aware of the power relations imbued in the knowledge production and dissemination process(es) of the academy. The creation of a podcast series for ISCHP, entitled The Operative Word, therefore represents our attempt to join digital media platforms, in an effort to freely disseminate and share critical perspectives and knowledge, and to inspire conversations amongst critical scholars around the world – wherever their location. Continue reading

As a health coach, my fat is my greatest asset –– not a challenge to be overcome

By Tiana Dodson
2017-04-01 Tiana photo shooting 078As a fat person, you’re constantly browbeaten with the idea that your health has been somehow damaged, ruined, or compromised and that it’s imperative that you reclaim it by figuring out some way to make your body thin. So we look for people who model what we’re supposed to be. We look for the yoga teacher with the tightest butt, the deadlifter with the biggest pecs, the marathoner who makes the 26.2 look effortless, and the lithe, glowing health guru smiling around the straw of a green juice.

It might seem logical –– imitate that which you want to become –– but what people don’t know is that it’s more than a lifestyle that got those people there. It’s their job. So unless you’re trying to make fitness your career, you’re more than likely going to be trying to squeeze fitness into a life where time, energy, and resources are already at a premium. Trying to emulate these people almost always falls short… and that’s without starting from absolute fatness. Continue reading

Are We Well Enough Yet?

By Annie Belcher

yogaI’ve been away from Melbourne for the past month. Having a break from yoga and teaching has provided me space to think through and distill some thoughts I’ve been having about yoga – it’s downfalls and some parts I think we (those in the yoga industry in the Western World) could be doing better.

There are many aspects of yoga which I think need further thought and interrogation; issues of cultural appropriation, yoga’s limited engagement with structural issues, yoga’s focus on the individual. In this instance however, I’m speaking to the implications of commodification. Exploring what happens when yoga is simultaneously “health and wellness” and a commodified product. Continue reading