In the Public Interest

One of APA's strategic goals is to expand psychology's role in advancing health and well-being and successfully promote our vital contributions to key stakeholders and the public. More and more — as this month's Monitor cover story illustrates — interdisciplinary teams are central to the new health-care system. In line with APA's strategic plan, APA is working to ensure that psychology becomes more fully integrated into health research and delivery systems. This has been a primary goal of APA's Public Interest Directorate for years. Space restrictions won't allow me to share everything we've done in this regard, but here are a few examples:

  • APA's Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population Initiative focuses on efforts to promote psychologists' involvement and contributions to the expanding model of health care. This effort, administered through our Office and Committee on Aging, has led to several important products, including "Blueprint for Change: Achieving Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population." This office is also exerting substantial effort toward ensuring that psychology is given significant attention in Institute of Medicine report The Mental Health Workforce for Geriatric Populations. By participating in programs that offer specialized training in areas in which psychologists have more expertise, members of other disciplines are able to see firsthand how psychologists' involvement can significantly improve health outcomes.

  • The APA Office on AIDS has for many years conducted two training programs that highlight psychology's critical role in HIV/AIDS prevention and have trained 29,000 individuals and 700 organizations. One, the HIV Office for Psychology Education Program, trains psychologists how to integrate mental health and substance abuse assessment and treatment in primary care settings for people living with HIV/AIDS. The effort is funded by the Center for Mental Health Services. The second program is the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer Program, which offers training and technical assistance associated with integrating mental health and substance-abuse screening, brief interventions and referral to treatment into community-based HIV prevention programs.

  • Another program shows the vital role psychologists play in cancer care. Our Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities Program is a $1.7 million CDC-funded national initiative that works to improve community-based organizations' abilities to address health disparities in cancer. The program uses evidence-based research and strategies to help socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority populations. Psychologists have conducted much of this research and developed these strategies. As the program enters its fourth year, it has trained close to 400 professionals and awarded close to 50 mini-grants of up to $5,000 each to cancer-serving organizations for community-based initiatives that decrease cancer disparities.The Public Interest Directorate oversees several other efforts to address health disparities. For example, APA's Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs has coordinated grant awards for early career faculty at minority-serving institutions. Part of the process for awardees is attending the seven-day MFP/PSI professional development institute. Since this program's inception in 2002, it has supported the training and development of 38 ethnic-minority scholars.

The initiatives I've highlighted are but a very few of all we're doing. Specifically, the work of our Government Relations Office comes to mind. To discuss their activities would require the space of a full column.

There is so much more to know, and I urge you to learn more about the depth and breadth of our health-related activities at APA's Public Interest.