From the executive director
By Cynthia D. Belar, PhD
The major focus of this issue is on our recent Education Leadership Conference (ELC). Health is a major concern for our society, and every area of psychology has something to contribute — hence, the breadth of health psychology. For example, in addition to clinical science and the direct delivery of health care services, there is cognitive psychology, which helps inform clinical decision making and the development of informatics; industrial–organizational psychology, which strengthens the performance of systems; human factors engineering, which helps in the design of systems to improve safety; and social psychology research, which informs policies regarding health disparities and dissemination of practice guidelines. In fact, I’m still looking for an area of psychology that has nothing to offer in health.
Given this enormous potential for contribution, this year’s ELC focused on what we need to do to prepare tomorrow’s health workforce. This includes not only the preparation of psychologists who will be our future educators, researchers, practitioners and policymakers but also the promotion of psychological literacy in the entire health workforce. After all, most of the public will never see a psychologist, but there will be behavioral components in health care system design as well as in each and every health care visit. A number of Institute of Medicine reports have highlighted the importance of these components, and many health professions have increased emphases on communication, individual differences and other behavioral, cognitive, affective and sociocultural components in their curriculum.
ELC participants seemed to welcome the underlying assumption that psychology is more than a mental health
discipline and profession — a position that was less well received by organized psychology over 30 years ago. There also seemed to be widespread interest in preparing a workforce for teaching, research, and practice in both mental and physical health arenas, specifically using an integrated biopsychosocial model. A list of promising practices was developed that will be posted soon on our website and that will grow over time with the contributions of our members. Challenges associated with curriculum development and psychology’s role in health were shared and debated. I left feeling reassured about the vibrancy of our faculty and education and training programs and their ability to ensure the health of psychology in health.