From the CEO

The medical establishment is finally catching on to something that we psychologists have long known: You can’t effectively treat physical health conditions without taking behavioral and mental health into account. Whether it’s encouraging women to conduct regular breast exams, helping those living with HIV/AIDS keep track of medications or teaching healthy lifestyles to at-risk families, psychologists are at the vanguard of preventing and treating many health problems that previously were considered the sole domain of nurses and physicians.

Among the more conspicuous signs of this transition is last year’s health-care reform law, which set aside funding for integrated health-care teams at community health centers. That’s a smart move, given that behavior-linked illnesses account for nearly 75 percent of health-care spending, and studies have found that integrated behavioral health care can reduce treatment costs by 20 to 40 percent. Another sign of the growing strength of the integrated-care movement: A slew of collaborations between APA’s Public Interest Directorate and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One such collaboration is the Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities Program, a five-year, $1.75 million CDC grant to APA to reduce income-related disparities in cancer care. Since the program’s inception in 2008, it has taught hundreds of health professionals and community advocates about the importance of using evidence-based interventions to improve cancer screening and survivorship rates in low-income areas, and how to find such interventions by searching CDC and National Cancer Institute databases. This program doesn’t just help communities brainstorm solutions — it also funds them. So far, the group has provided 13 mini-grants to organizations across the country. In Dallas, for example, a grant from the CDC-APA program is helping a local group launch a media campaign that will encourage low-income Asian-American women to visit community health centers for mammograms and other cancer screenings.

APA and CDC are also working together via a cooperative agreement to provide HIV capacity building assistance to community-based organizations through the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer program. Since its inception in 1996, this program has linked psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists and other experts with more than 600 local health-care organizations. These experts have helped improve local HIV-prevention efforts by providing technical assistance and training in the areas of program monitoring and evaluation, conducting needs assessments, and selecting, adapting and implementing evidence-based interventions.

Another APA-CDC collaboration that has been particularly productive involves the prevention of child abuse. In 2007, the CDC Division of Violence Prevention — headed by psychologist Dr. Rodney Hammond — contracted with APA to convene a group of experts to recommend evidence-based public health strategies for preventing child abuse. The resulting report recommends an integrated model that combines parenting programs, behavioral health interventions and health-care services offered at community health centers, a particularly ripe opportunity for family-centered interventions. Following that recommendation, APA’s Office of Violence Prevention is currently bringing its evidence-based positive-parenting program, ACT Raising Safe Kids, to two community health centers — one in Toledo, Ohio, and another in Washington, D.C. In addition to improving the lives of hundreds of at-risk children, these pilot programs could pave the way for positive-parenting programs to spread to the 1,250 community health centers nationwide.

These are just a few ways that APA is collaborating with the CDC to put psychology’s expertise to work to prevent injury and disease, and new projects are on the horizon. A few months ago, APA senior staff met with CDC representatives at their request to explore future collaborations to fully integrate mental health promotion, prevention and treatment into chronic disease prevention programs — one more sign that the country is finally ready to embrace an integrated understanding of mind-body health.