Feature

As psychologists make more inroads into medical settings, joining treatment teams for disorders as varied as cancer, hypertension and AIDS, the health psychology field is booming, says Anne E. Kazak, PhD, a psychology professor in the pediatrics department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and director of the psychology department at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. This influx of psychological expertise comes at a critical time, she says.

“So many health issues that are pre-eminent in society have strong behavioral components, and we have psychological knowledge that can directly affect our understanding of those problems and the ways in which you address them.”

As incoming editor of Health Psychology, Kazak will make the field’s flagship journal home to the full range of original research on the intersection of health and behavior. Articles on specific diseases or population groups — especially children and adolescents — will run alongside more cross-cutting research, she says. The journal will also publish articles that contribute to the theoretical foundations of health psychology, as well as papers that guide psychologists working directly with patients — though articles that do both are among Kazak’s favorites.

“I want to really emphasize the translation of research into practice, and perhaps take a slightly more applied approach than we have in the past.”

Kazak’s own contributions to health psychology have been in this translational vein. For more than 20 years, she has investigated the factors that contribute to children’s and families’ ability to cope with pediatric conditions, including cancer. Kazak and her colleagues have found that a variety of variables, including social isolation, financial resources, and beliefs about illness and treatment, affect how well families handle the challenges of illness diagnosis and treatment. In her own work, Kazak screens families for these risk factors and develops and tests interventions to better prepare them.

For this work, Kazak received the 2009 Cummings American Psychological Foundation PSYCHE Prize, which recognizes psychologists who have integrated behavioral health care into medical settings. She also holds a senior mentoring award from the National Cancer Institute.

In addition to her work as a pediatric psychologist, mentor and researcher, Kazak has already served as editor of two other major journals — the Journal of Pediatric Psychology from 1998 to 2002, and the Journal of Family Psychology from 2004 to 2009. She’ll begin accepting manuscripts for Health Psychology July 1.