Perspective on Practice

Tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans are expected to gain health insurance coverage by 2014 as a result of the Affordable Care Act. This new population of insured people offers professional psychologists new opportunities to advance our role in health, one of APA's three strategic goals and the impetus for the creation of a new Center for Psychology and Health. The APA Practice Directorate and the APA Practice Organization, a 501(c)(6) companion organization to APA, support the new center's focus through advocacy, public education and outreach activities. (For more on the center, go to "From the CEO," in the January Monitor.)

As part of our efforts to promote the value of psychology to policymakers, we are dedicating a second consecutive State Leadership Conference (SLC) — the APA Practice Organization's premier annual advocacy conference held this month — to issues related to safeguarding appropriate roles for psychologists as health-care reform is implemented. With this year's theme, "Countdown to Health Care Reform," we continue to focus on educating psychology leaders about health-care reform, identifying roles for psychologists in the evolving health-care system and identifying where our advocacy efforts can make the most difference.

Just as the center's goal of expanding the participation of psychologists in the health-care system extends beyond health-care reform, the Practice Directorate's efforts extend beyond SLC to other advocacy, public education and outreach activities that enhance the public's understanding of psychologists' important role in health care. A few examples of Practice advocacy and outreach efforts that contribute to the work of the APA Center for Psychology and Health:

  • Since late 2011, we have participated in 11 state health-care reform summits aimed at securing psychology's place in evolving health-care systems at the state level, where most of the hard work around health-care reform is being done.
  • Our State Implementation of Health Care Reform initiative includes an online community that serves as a central hub for resources, fosters the partnership between APA and state psychological organizations, and supports state-level initiatives.
  • In conjunction with outside legal counsel, we have worked to identify barriers to psychological service delivery in Medicaid, along with opportunities to overcome those challenges. We are continuing to support states such as New York and Rhode Island as they address corporate practice of medicine statutes that prevent psychologists from partnering with physicians in integrated-care systems.
  • Grants to state, provincial and territorial psychological associations from the Committee for the Advancement of Professional Practice support legislative efforts to advance access to psychological services at the state level.
  • The annual Stress in America survey, part of APA's Mind/Body Health public education campaign, provides an in-depth look at how stress affects people in the United States and examines attitudes toward and perceptions about stress across the country. The Mind/Body Health initiative uses national and local outreach activities to educate the public about the connection between psychological and physical health, and promotes psychologists as the best-trained health-care providers to support healthy lifestyle and behavioral changes.
  • Our partnership with the YMCA addresses the impact of individual behaviors, such as healthy eating and regular physical activity, in reducing risk factors for chronic diseases such as diabetes. APA and the YMCA are working to address unhealthy behaviors that contribute to chronic illness and health-care costs.
  • APA's Advisory Steering Committee for the development of clinical practice guidelines is moving forward on guidelines to ensure that scientific evidence and best practices in psychological intervention are available to policymakers and other health-care providers.

As health-care reform becomes reality, we will continue to advocate for the profession and for the people we serve. The new APA Center for Psychology and Health brings structure and coordination to our work in APA Practice related to demonstrating the value of and securing psychology's place in the health-care delivery system.