In Brief

Speaking before a standing-room-only crowd of congressional staffers, agency representatives and women's health advocates, APA's Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, underscored the critical and costly problem of mental disorders at a Jan. 30 congressional briefing titled, "A Profile of Women's Health: An Agenda for Change."

Keita, director of the APA Women's Programs Office, cited a major finding of a report by the World Health Organization, World Bank and Harvard University that five of the 10 leading causes of disability worldwide were mental health conditions.

"For women, depression was the leading cause of disease burden in both developed and underdeveloped regions," explained Keita.

In her statement, Keita focused on the importance of mental health and its contribution to overall health, the need for increased access to mental health services for women, and the need for more research and training funds targeting women's mental health. More specifically, she called for Congress to:

  • Pass the Domenici/Wellstone Mental Health Parity legislation.

  • Enact the Patients' Bill of Rights.

  • Increase funding for women's mental health research at the National Institutes of Health, especially for subpopulations of women, including women of color, lesbians, adolescent girls, pregnant and postpartum women, and older women.

  • Increase funding for mental health services and for the education and training of mental health professionals at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Keita was joined on the panel by Rep. Connie Morella (R- Md.), a longtime advocate for women's health in Congress; Dawn Misra, PhD, of the University of Michigan and lead author of the newly released Women's Health Data Book: A Profile of Women's Health in the United States, Wendy Chavkin, MD, of Columbia University, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association and Sheila Burke, undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and a leading health policy expert.

The briefing was sponsored by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Women's Policy, Inc., in cooperation with the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues.

To view Keita's statement, along with a transcript and Webcast of the briefing, go to APA's Public Policy Office Web site, www.apa.org/ppo/issues/pwomen.html, and click on the briefing.

--L. GREENE