President's Column

This month you will have an opportunity to consider amending the APA bylaws to include the word health as part of our mission statement. If someone were to ask you--indeed, if you wondered--what APA is all about, the first place you'd look is the mission statement, a part of APA's bylaws.

It was adopted in 1945, and has held up remarkably well. But does it still capture the essential roles of our 155,000 members and affiliates in this new millennium? I felt that an important concept was missing, and conversations with many APA members and staff have confirmed my suspicion that our mission statement needs to be updated.

Health needs to be inserted. The essence of what so many psychologists dedicate their careers to needs to be part of our mission statement. APA has long recognized the importance of health in its own activities. And we need to clearly and boldly begin in our mission statement to erase the line between health and mental health that stunts our discipline's potential to grow.

Reaction to this proposal has been gratifying. In June of 2000 the APA Board of Directors voted to include health in our mission statement. And, as I write this, APA's Council of Representatives has just adopted the change in the mission statement.

Psychologists have known for years what many policy-makers are only now discovering: mental health is health, and psychologists provide health-care services for more than mental health problems. Studies have shown that depressed patients are at increased risk of complications and death from chronic diseases, and their recovery from surgery is slowed. The techniques of hypnosis and self-hypnosis have been shown to alleviate cancer pain and positively impact survival rates. A recent study by Karen Matthews and colleagues concluded that a high level of hostility may predispose young adults to coronary artery calcification. Psychologists such as Shari Waldstein are researching ways in which adverse health conditions, such as high blood pressure, may impact the cognitive function of older adults.

Health psychologists are doing important research on stress, adherence to medical regimens, and interventions for diet modification, exercise and smoking cessation. Psychologists are uncovering the factors involved in resilience and successful aging. Some are turning their research skills to population-based preventive approaches.

Almost two-thirds of APA members and affiliates placed themselves in Health Service Provider subfields (clinical,counseling and school) when responding to the 1999 APA Directory Survey.That large percentage does not include psychologists who work in areas such as medicine, behavioral medicine, genetics or epidemiology. And it does not include the many research psychologists who work in areas such as psychopharmacology, psychobiology and social neuroscience. Overwhelmingly, APA members are concerned with improving health, broadly defined.

The next step is for the bylaws change to be approved by the full membership. I urge you to support this change when you get your ballot from APA. We can only benefit from the "truth in advertising." After all, together we psychologists are building a healthy world. Isn't it time we do so?

Proposal to change APA's mission statement

"The objects of the American Psychological Association shall be to advance psychology as a science and profession and as a means ofpromoting health and human welfare by the encouragement of psychology in all its branches in the broadest and most liberal manner; by the promotion of research in psychology and the improvement of research methods and conditions, by the improvement of the qualifications and usefulness of psychologists through high standards of ethics, conduct, education, and achievement; by the establishment and maintenance of the highest standards of professional ethics and conduct of the members of the Association; bythe increase and diffusion of psychological knowledge through meetings, professional contacts, reports, papers, discussions, and publications; thereby to advance scientific interests and inquiry, and the application of researchfindings to the promotion of health and the public welfare."