Ari Haukkala awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the EHPS

Dr Ari Haukkala has been invited as an Honorary Fellow to the European Health Psychology Society.

Fellow is the highest grade of membership in the EHPS, and Fellowship is recognition of an exceptional contribution. Dr Haukkala is the second EHPS Honorary Fellow from Finland, after prof. emer. Juhani Julkunen (EHPS founding member).

Scientific contribution

Dr Ari Haukkala has been active in health psychology research since the 1990s. Currently, he is co-director of the Behaviour Change and Wellbeing group at the University of Helsinki. As one of the leading PIs in health psychology in Finland, he has worked in numerous areas and trained a number of students to become active, influential scholars in the area. He has written nearly 100 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters.

Dr Haukkala has made contributions in five main areas of social and health psychology:

1) Smoking prevention

After his postdoc at the Harvard Medical School smoking cessation unit, Dr Haukkala worked in the Finnish National Public Health institute relating to youth smoking prevention programs (Vartiainen et al. 2007). Since that, he has served in several national committees relating to smoking prevention and worked in prevention programs in Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (funded by the World Bank).

2) Psychosocial factors in obesity and metabolic syndrome

Dr Haukkala was PI in the psychosocial section of the multidisciplinary longitudinal DILGOM study, which aimed to identify factors predicting the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome. His PhD student Hanna Konttinen won the EHPS Early Career award in 2017. This project resulted in several highly cited papers (e.g. Konttinen et al. 2011).

3) Psychosocial factors for CVD 

Dr Haukkala has written several original papers and a handbook chapter on the relationships between psychosocial factors and cardiovascular disease, especially related to different anger-related concepts (e.g. Haukkala et al 2010).

4) Psychology of genetic testing

The first genetic mutations found to cause the heritable Lynch cancer syndrome were identified among Finnish families in 1993. Since 2000, he has worked with this patient group to examine the psychosocial consequences of genetic testing (Aktan-Collan et al. 2013), how genetic risk information is communicated within families, and how people react to direct contact with untested family members at risk (Aktan-Collan et al. 2007). Recently, Dr Haukkala led an Academy of Finland funded project producing important novel understanding of communicating genetic risk information, with mixed methods (e.g. Vornanen et al. 2019). 

5) Healthy eating and physical activity intervention research

Within the EU-funded PRECIOUS program (Nurmi et al. 2019), Dr Haukkala led a team in developing digital versions of motivational interviewing intervention components as part of an app to change multiple health behaviours, and evaluation in a series of n-of-1 RCT studies. Another line of work examines implicit interventions for healthy eating (Aulbach et al. 2019).

Training of new generation of researchers

Last but not least, Dr Haukkala has been exceptionally influential in Finland in training a new generation of social and health psychology researchers based in Finland, with almost 20 former or current PhD students or postdocs. These are active scholars in the field of health psychology, whose career paths and opportunities have been greatly influenced by Dr Haukkala: He has ensured a lively research culture in a wide range of health psychology topics in Finland, won and led several grants relevant to health psychology topics, enabling growth of the field.

Contribution to EHPS

Ari Haukkala has participated in 12 EHPS conferences since 1995 (Bergen) and several Synergy meetings. He has contributed to EHPS as a member of the scientific committee of the 30th EHPS conference in Aberdeen in 2016, and has organised several symposia in a number of EHPS conferences.

Professional contribution

Dr Haukkala has been a frequently sought-after expert and collaborator in Finland, representing health and social psychology knowledge.

Since he started as a university lecturer in Social Psychology at the University of Helsinki in 2003, he has taught courses relevant to social and health psychology. The situation for health psychology in Finland has not been optimal, as there has long been only one professorship in health psychology in the entire country. To respond to the vast demand for this expertise, Dr Haukkala has done his part in representing the perspective of health psychology in numerous ways in Finland in training and advisory panel, and teaching in the health psychology specialisation course arranged by Psykonet, Finnish national network for psychology teaching. As a small nation, the Finnish health sector has created multidisciplinary approaches to implement health psychology to different fields. Dr Haukkala has worked closely with his former employer, the National Public Health Institute (currently: National Institute for Health and Welfare) by creating opportunities for (social) psychology students to work in the field of health research. He is also a founding member of the Finnish Association of Behavioural Medicine since 1993 and has been an active member in the Finnish Society of Social Medicine, where he has actively brought health psychology expertise to the forefront.  

Also currently, he serves an invited member of the scientific advisory board of the Smokefree Finland 2030, as well as the health psychology representative in a major P5 study that aims to understand influences of genomic testing on health behaviour and that will influence Finnish health care practice.