Work, Stress and Health Partnership

By the late 1980s, it was apparent that while psychologists had long been involved in studying human behavior in organizations, and while specialists from other disciplines such as public health, epidemiology, business and medicine were making significant advances in understanding, treating and preventing psychological disorders in the workplace, psychologists were paying little attention to this growing area of research and practice.
 
A special issue of the American Psychologist® in February 1990 on organizational psychology, an October 1990 Psychology in the Public Forum section in the American Psychologist on occupational stress, and a November 1990 conference, co-sponsored by APA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), were all evidence of psychology's important potential contributions in this area and a call for greater involvement (Keita & Jones, 1990).
 
The five articles in the October 1990 Public Forum section addressed NIOSH's role in identifying and preventing hazards in the workplace (Millar, 1990); the NIOSH-generated national strategy addressing the psychological health of workers (Sauter, Murphy, & Hurrell, 1990); occupational issues from an international perspective (Levi, 1990); a proposed training program addressing what the authors identified as "occupational health psychology" (Raymond, Wood, & Patrick, 1990); and the need for national comprehensive programs to address work-related stress, by Senator Mark O. Hatfield (1990).
 
Out of the growing realization of the need for more involvement by psychologists in occupational health and stress, the critical partnership between APA and NIOSH was established. The first major product of that partnership was the inaugural November 1990 conference: "Work and Well-Being: An Agenda for the 90s." 
 
Proceedings of that conference were subsequently published in a book edited by Keita and Sauter, Work and Well-Being: An Agenda for the 1990s (Keita & Sauter, 1992).
 
This inaugural conference developed into a major, interdisciplinary, international conference series, sponsored by APA, NIOSH and later the Society for Occupational Health Psychology (SOHP). The SOHP was one of the products of the APA/NIOSH partnership, as was the development of the field of occupational health psychology itself. Other outcomes of the APA/NIOSH partnership and the development of field of occupational health psychology were NIOSH-funded training programs in occupational health psychology, the International Coordinating Committee on Occupational Health Psychology and the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology®.
 
Looking back over this quarter century partnership, APA Public Interest Directorate Executive Director Gwendolyn P. Keita, PhD, observed, "Participating in the development and growth of the new field of OHP was one of the most exciting achievements of my professional career. The dedicated staff at NIOSH who began this work were an inspiration, especially Steven Sauter, PhD, who was the guiding force at NIOSH."
 
Other milestones in the history of the development of occupational health psychology have been collected by SOHP at their website.
 
Current partners include APA's Work, Stress and Health Office, NIOSH and SOHP: 
 
APA's Work, Stress and Health Office promotes research, training, practice and policy to examine the impact of the changing organization of work on stress, health, safety and productivity in the workplace.
 
The NIOSH Division of Applied Research and Technology (DART) provides national and international leadership in research focused on the prevention of occupational illness and injury. Psychologists, working with DART chemists, engineers, biologists, toxicologists and other scientists provide focal points for field and laboratory research.
 
The Society for Occupational Health Psychology (SOHP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the generation, dissemination and application of scientific knowledge in order to improve worker health and well-being. SOHP seeks to (1) promote psychological research on significant theoretical and practical questions related to occupational health; (2) encourage the application of findings from psychological research to workplace health concerns; and (3) improve education and training related to occupational health psychology at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. SOHP was formed in 2004, an outgrowth of the work, stress and health conferences. Beginning with the 2008 conference, SOHP joined APA and NIOSH to sponsor the conference series. 

References

Hatfield, M. O. (1990). Stress and the American worker. American Psychologist, 45, 1162-1164.
 
Keita, G. P., & Jones, J. M. (1990). Reducing adverse reaction to Stress in the Workplace: Psychology's expanding role (PDF, 533KB). American Psychologist, 45, 1137-1141. Source: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/45/10/1137.pdf  
 
Keita, G. P., & Sauter, S. L. (Eds.) (1992). Work and well-being: An agenda for the 1990s. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
 
Levi, L. (1990). Occupational stress: Spice of life or kiss of death? American Psychologist, 45, 1142-1145.
 
Millar, J. D. (1990). Mental health and the workplace: An interchangeable partnership. American Psychologist, 45, 1165-1166.
 
Raymond, J. S., Wood, D. W., & Patrick, W. K. (1990). Psychology doctoral training in work and health. American Psychologist, 45, 1159-1161.
 
Sauter, S. L., Murphy, L. R., & Hurrell, J. J. (1990). Prevention of work-related psychological disorders. American Psychologist, 45, 1146-1158.