From the CEO
One of APA's three goals in APA's strategic plan is to expand psychology's role in advancing health. Under this goal are a number of objectives and six funded strategic initiatives. This fall, APA took an additional step to accelerate our work on health through the creation of a new Center for Psychology and Health. The mission of the new center will be to oversee, facilitate and expand efforts across the association that are intended to achieve our strategic goal on health. As director of the center, I will work with APA Senior Policy Advisor Ellen Garrison, PhD, who will coordinate its work throughout APA and in close collaboration with the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). The center will tap the expertise of a health leadership team comprised of APA senior staff, as well as that of our new APA primary care fellow and a working group of APA members with direct experience in primary care.
In addition to having a focus on the objectives and initiatives under the strategic plan, the center's work will be guided by what we are calling the Roadmap for Expanding Participation of Psychologists in the Health Care System. The idea for the roadmap grew out of discussions with the APA Board of Directors and executive staff, and is intended to provide a greater focus on encouraging and preparing more psychologists to assume broader roles in health care. Psychologists offer unique benefits to improve people's health and well-being in a variety of ways, from helping people overcome stress and depression, to changing their eating and exercise behaviors to conquering their addictions. Psychologists are also valuable players on integrated health-care teams and can foster patient communication and team building. Such patient-centered, coordinated care considers the whole person and has been embraced by the Affordable Care Act as a way to increase access to and quality of care, while reducing costs.
In order to accomplish its mission, the center will focus on four broad areas:
Education and training. The center will build on APA's efforts to determine competencies for health service providers in psychology and work to expand opportunities for graduate, internship and postdoctoral education and training to promote overall health. We will also create continuing-education and professional development programs related to health and behavior.
Advocacy. Key to the center's success are efforts to promote psychologists' value to federal policymakers, as well as to government officials and insurance providers at the state level. We will, for example, continue to work to make sure psychologists are included as part of interprofessional health teams in primary care as the new health-care reform law is being implemented. Through legal research, we have recently identified major barriers that keep Medicaid patients from accessing psychological and behavioral health services. APAPO will continue to challenge corporate practice of medicine statutes in various states that prevent psychologist–physician partnerships.
Public education and outreach. We will continue to conduct national public opinion surveys to gauge the public's understanding of psychologists' important roles in health care, and we are developing partnerships with primary care and related organizations. In addition, we will educate high school and undergraduate students on psychology's role in health.
Member communications. We will keep APA members informed every step of the way through the Monitor and other communications vehicles. Our goal is to offer information and resources to help members acquire the skills they need to work on interdisciplinary health-care teams and to engage in federal and state advocacy in support of health-care reform activities.
There is growing recognition that the ever-increasing rise in our nation's health-care costs — now 18.2 percent of the U.S. Gross National Product — is due mostly to the treatment of serious, chronic health conditions. These conditions are largely due to unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet, inadequate exercise and substance use. As experts in human behavior, psychologists have much to offer to improve public health and bend the steep cost curve. The new APA Center for Psychology and Health will provide a coordinated way forward to secure psychology's role in the overall improvement of health and health-care in the United States.