In the Public Interest

In my last column, I discussed each of the offices, programs and activities within the Public Interest Directorate (PI), part of whose mission is to address the needs of specific diverse populations and other issues of diversity. Our offices are critical to ensuring the success of PI initiatives that "advance psychology as a means of promoting health and human welfare." There are, in addition, several areas within PI that are also critical to fulfilling the mission of our directorate.

The Children, Youth and Families (CYF) Office, like those discussed in my last column, provides support to a committee as one of its primary functions. However, unlike the others, it does not focus on an underrepresented constituency. The office is responsible for supporting the work and facilitating the development of products for a number of task forces and working groups. Examples include the Working Group on Resilience and Strength in Black Children and Adolescents, and the Working Group on Guidance-Based Practice for Children and Adolescents. CYF staff also worked closely with members of the Working Group on Psychotropic Medications in developing and completing their final report, which was approved by the Council of Representatives in August.

The Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence program, created in collaboration with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, is a research-based training program emphasizing the importance of early intervention and the role of adults and communities in violence prevention. You may have seen the public service announcement stating, "What a child learns about violence, a child learns for life." After five years, several evaluation studies, and with funding from the MetLife Foundation, we are expanding the ACT program to meet an increasing demand for presentations in Latino communities with a Spanish version of the program. ACT has been implemented by psychologists and other professionals in schools, prisons and community settings.

The Office on AIDS, like the ACT program, includes major training and technical assistance components for psychologists, as well as others. In June, the APA Office on AIDS and its small business collaborator eNursing LLC received funding from the Small Business Innovations Research Program of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to develop a 10-module, Internet-based, continuing-education program to train psychologists and other mental health providers about working with people near the end of life.

The Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer (BSSV) program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administered through the PI Office on AIDS, is a national HIV-prevention technical-assistance program for health departments, community planning groups, and community-based organizations. Since its inception in 1996, over 500 organizations have been served by BSSV program volunteers. Recently, BSSV staff have been working with CDC to develop a resource guide for community-based organizations attempting to adapt evidence-based HIV-prevention interventions for local populations.

The HIV Office for Psychology Education (HOPE) program, also housed in the Office on AIDS, was originally funded in October 1991 by a three-year contract with the Center for Mental Health Services and has a cadre of nearly 200 doctoral-level psychologists nationwide who are trained and certified to deliver HIV-related mental health continuing-education programs for psychologists and other mental health service providers. Currently in our 15th year of funding, HOPE regional trainers have provided HIV-related psychology workshops, lectures and seminars reaching over 24,000 mental health providers around the nation.

The Public Interest Directorate Executive Office engages in a number of activities addressing priorities that are primarily determined by the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI). The board works with its committees to prioritize and respond to the myriad issues that fall within the PI purview. BAPPI focuses on such issues as poverty, evidenced by the creation of a new continuing Committee on Socioeconomic Status, and diversity within and outside of APA, as shown by the infusion/integration of the Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists, and the Task Force on Diversity in Course Content, Publications and Training Programs.

In my last column and this one, I have described only some of the wide array of activities under way in PI. What ties these various efforts together is this: We work to mobilize psychological research and clinical experience to better human health and welfare. And in serving the needs of all members of our society, we raise the visibility of psychology and psychologists; we ensure that psychology is at the table; and we work to supply psychologists and others with the resources they need to do their jobs. Although the magnitude of our work can seem daunting at times, it never ceases to be fulfilling.