In the Public Interest

APA's Public Interest (PI) Directorate is committed to showcasing and expanding psychology's role in advancing health, especially that of underserved populations. For years, we have engaged experts from psychology and other disciplines to address critical health issues with the goal of highlighting psychology's critical contribution, needs for further research, education and training, collaboration and policy.

Because of the longstanding and ongoing focus on health within the PI directorate, we are excited about the newly implemented APA Center for Psychology and Health (see "From the CEO," January Monitor). The center was created to coordinate APA's efforts toward advancing psychology's role in health.

The PI directorate's contributions consist of a variety of initiatives, activities and events aimed at furthering psychology's reach. In 2001, we sponsored the last in a series of three conferences on Psychosocial and Behavioral Factors in Women's Health, culminating in a research agenda. For more than 20 years, APA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, subsequently joined by the Society for Occupational Health Psychology, have convened international conferences that exhibit psychology's contributions to improving the health and safety of workers — our 10th such conference will be held May 16–19 in Los Angeles.

PI is also active in furthering psychology's contribution to solving other health problems. Through the HIV Office for Psychology Education program and the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer Program, more than 32,000 mental health professionals were trained to address the needs of people with AIDS. The BSSV is currently offering three-day trainings and technical assistance nationwide to health professionals on integrated care for individuals with mental health problems, substance use disorders and HIV/AIDS. The Council of Representatives adopted a Resolution on Combination Behavioral and Biomedical Approaches to Optimize HIV Prevention (PDF, 83KB), originated, developed and widely disseminated by the Committee on Psychology and AIDS, to ensure continued attention to critical behavioral approaches to the prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS.

In addition, our Health Disparities Initiative works to increase understanding of and support for research, training, public education and interventions that improve overall health and reduce health disparities among underserved and vulnerable populations. We are initially focusing on stress, obesity, substance abuse and addiction because of their prevalence and high association with other chronic diseases, such as hypertension and diabetes in health-disparity populations, and because psychological science has much to contribute to understanding, preventing and treating these conditions.

We've recently convened two summits to address two of the health disparity topics: Obesity in African American Women and Girls and Strengthening Psychology's Role in Reducing Tobacco Health Disparities. Experts from across a number of disciplines, organizations and federal agencies spoke at both conferences.

Our Socioeconomic Status Related Cancer Disparities Program, funded through a grant from CDC, is taking psychologists and evidence-based research to support the capacity building efforts of organizations and stakeholders focused on cancer treatment and prevention, specifically for socioeconomically disadvantaged populations.

In addition, our Integrated Health Care for an Aging Population Initiative focuses on promoting psychologists' involvement and contributions to this expanding model of health care (see Blueprint for Change: Achieving Integrated Health for an Aging Population). The directorate's Office on Aging also led psychology's successful effort to have psychologists recognized as integral members of the interdisciplinary aging workforce.

Clearly, our focus and commitment strongly support the work of the newly implemented APA Center for Psychology and Health. Selecting initiatives to highlight here was difficult because so many exciting developments are taking place in the PI directorate. I sincerely encourage you to visit our Web pages, subscribe to our newsletter, In the Public Interest, and feel free to give us a call. We always welcome feedback and new ideas.