In the Public Interest

Members often tell me that the work we do in APA's Public Interest (PI) Directorate draws them to the association, inspires them to become involved, and often encourages them to continue as members. Many say it's the reason they chose psychology as a career. Unfortunately, some members also express concern that their dues are used to further social issues, rather than to support practitioners and researchers. Those of us in PI do not dispute the importance of such priorities. However, our mission is "to fulfill APA's commitment to apply the science and practice of psychology to the fundamental problems of human welfare and social justice and the promotion of equitable and just treatment of all segments of society through education, training and public policy." In the words of George Miller, our role is to "give psychology away."

PI's offices, committees and task forces collect and disseminate psychological science that educates psychologists and other health professionals, the public and policymakers. We use science to inform a broad range of social issues, including violence prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, discrimination and prejudice, positive aging, health disparities, women and leadership, sexualization of girls, lesbian and gay parenting, occupational stress, firearm violence, intimate partner violence and postpartum depression.

For example:

  • The Office on Aging staffed an American Bar Association/APA Working Group that has developed handbooks on the assessment of capacity in older adults for psychologists, lawyers and judges.
  • The Disabilities Issues Office released the first module of the "DisABILITY Resource Toolbox" for training directors and faculty: "Students with Disabilities in the Social and Behavioral Sciences."
  • The ACT Parents Raising Safe Kids Program seeks to make available psychological knowledge and findings on child development, violence prevention and parenting to help protect children and youth from violence and abuse and their long-term consequences. The program has been implemented in 70 communities in the United States, and in Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Peru, and soon in Japan.
  • Our Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities Program strengthens the capacity of community-based cancer organizations and stakeholders to access psychologists and other behavioral health volunteers to improve or initiate cancer prevention, early detection and survival in socioeconomically disadvantaged populations. This program has helped large numbers of cancer-serving organizations see the importance of psychology and psychologists in cancer prevention and treatment and health more broadly.
  • The HIV/AIDS Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer Program provides technical assistance to a national network of behavioral and social science volunteers to help with HIV-prevention efforts in their communities. Since 1996, it has trained more than 500 volunteers to provide services to 700 community-based organizations and 40 state health departments.
  • APA's partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to advance recognition of psychological disorders as leading occupational health risks put psychologists at the table in the workplace safety and health arena. Outgrowths of that partnership include the Work, Stress and Health Conference series, the Society for Occupational Health Psychology and the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

To reach the largest number of individuals who can use the information we produce, I have made communication a major priority for the Public Interest Directorate. We have expanded our presence on social media via Facebook, Twitter and with the launch of the Psychology Benefits Society blog. The directorate's e-cards and electronic newsletters have proven successful in raising awareness of our various audiences on a wide range of health and social issues.

Please take a look at our webpages and help spread the word about the ways psychology benefits society. Join us as we give psychology away.