APA Center for Psychology and Health: Overview and Update

In January 2013, APA's CEO Norman Anderson announced the creation of a new APA Center for Psychology and Health in his column in the Monitor on Psychology. The Center for Psychology and Health (hereinafter referred to as the "Center") also served as the focus of accompanying and subsequent Monitor columns by the executive directors of APA's practice, education, science and public interest directorates. The Center reflects a new, trans-APA Central Office organizational structure. The Center is designed to provide overall coordination and advance activities to achieve the health goal of APA's strategic plan — expand psychology's role in advancing health — along with its associated seven objectives and six strategic initiatives. The Center will work in close collaboration with the APA Practice Organization (APAPO).

In addition to facilitating the implementation of the APA strategic goal on health, the Center will focus on what is called the "Roadmap for Expanding Participation of Psychologists in the Health Care System." The Roadmap is designed specifically to accomplish the workforce outcomes in the APA strategic plan related to the health goal. Therefore, the Roadmap provides a context for a concerted effort to prepare and encourage more psychologists to assume roles in the broader health care system, to engage in behaviors associated with these roles, and to work in integrated health care settings.  

Scope and Activities of the Center

The Center will engage in the following four broad areas of work to accomplish its mission:

  • Education and Training
  • Advocacy
  • Public Education and Outreach
  • Member Communications

The Center will design, implement, track, and evaluate activities in each of these four areas. It will be the initial challenge of the Center's leadership team to prioritize critical activities in each area to accomplish APA's strategic goal on health.

Management and Structure

APA's CEO provides overall direction for the Center and its activities. Ongoing coordination is provided by Senior Policy Advisor Ellen Garrison, PhD. The new, soon-to-be-hired director of integrated health care and Randy Phelps, PhD, who directs the new Office of Health Care Financing housed in the Center, will also play major roles in Center activities broadly. Monthly or more frequent meetings of a Health Leadership Team, composed primarily of executive directors, are convened to carry out planning and oversight functions. Other key staff (both APA and APAPO), who are responsible for health-related issues, join the Health Leadership Team in constituting a broader Health Team (composed of about two dozen staff members). Individual staff involvement varies depending upon a given meeting's agenda, and subgroups of Health Team members are being appointed to carry out specified work projects. Working groups of APA experts (which are to be convened as part of the APA strategic initiative related to integrated health care) will advise the Health Leadership Team on ongoing and future initiatives related to integrated health care.

Initial Center Activities

The Health Leadership Team and broader Health Team have met on a number of occasions. Their activities have ranged from coordinating the Center roll-out to determining Center projects and priorities and implementation plans. The first critical task was to develop a comprehensive listing of ongoing APA activities that advance psychology and health in each of the four broad areas of work listed above and to refine the organizational chart to incorporate the new Office of Health Care Financing. Plans were soon underway to achieve the following:

Determination of Initial Center Priorities

The Health Leadership team decided that advancing the role of psychology as related to obesity and to establish an empirical basis for the inclusion of psychologists in integrated health care systems would be the two initial priorities of the Center.

Obesity

  • The Health Team developed a detailed listing of APA's obesity-related activities in each of the four broad areas of work.
  • Given the breadth and depth of this listing, the Health Leadership Team proposed the development of a public relations plan surrounding obesity to inform our members and the general public about the array of APA related products and resources. These include journal articles, books and other publications, continuing education programs, and the being-developed clinical practice guideline on obesity. The goal of this approach is to highlight the unique roles of psychology related to research, services and education in the area of obesity.
  • Public relations plans like that for obesity will be undertaken in the areas of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder for which an APA clinical practice guideline is also under development.

Research Focus on Integrated Health Care

  • Center staff are collaborating with APA Div. 38 (Health) and the other members of the Interdivisional Health Care Committee to develop and disseminate a set of briefing sheets highlighting the role of psychologists in primary care generally and in addressing a range of specific health concerns, including obesity, pediatric and adult cancer, heart disease and depression, sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, and chronic pain.
  • Center staff is also conducting a review of the scientific literature on integrated and primary care, with particular attention to articles that specifically address the roles and contributions of psychologists in these areas. This material will help to inform the work of President-elect Nadine Kaslow's 2014 presidential initiative on patient-centered medical homes focused on a family- and culturally-competent perspective. This work will ultimately be critical in strengthening the role of psychologists in integrated and primary care settings through discussions with our primary care colleagues and in federal and state advocacy efforts.
Development and Launch of Center Website 

A special Center website was created and featured on the APA homepage carousel to highlight the Center's mission and structure, key staff and team members, initial priority areas and related APA activities, and relevant APA resources for students and educators, psychologists, and the public. Resources include relevant literature and fact sheets related to integrated health care, health promotion strategies, and opportunities for training and continuing education, as well as news and other events related to health and health disparities.

Compilation of State-of-the-Art Resources

Center staff has been attending webinars, summits and national briefings to obtain information relevant to understanding the challenges and opportunities for mental and behavioral health professionals in integrated health care. Sample topics include: "The State of Health Care Policy," "National Briefing on Payment Reform" and "Training Behavioral Health Professionals to Succeed in Primary Care."

Collaboration With Other Organizations

Center staff has begun to develop partnerships with key APA divisions, most notably Div. 38, as well as with other entities, including the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Also, as part of APA's strategic initiative on integrated health care, the Center staff has become a member of the Executive Committee of the Patient Centered Primary Care Collaborative and is actively engaged in many of its task forces and centers.

Future Activities

Other vital planned Center activities include compiling a listing of APA's integrated health care initiatives and conducting a survey of APA members to identify those engaged in interdisciplinary health research and interprofessional services as related to health behaviors, roles and settings. This will help to determine key benchmarks for the Roadmap (mentioned earlier) in terms of workforce projections for in these areas. It will also help to develop a database of psychologists whose work focuses on integrated health care in practice and research settings.

Updated Sept. 17, 2013