In the Public Interest

The is my first column of the year. What should be its focus? An update on what exactly we do in the Public Interest Directorate seems apt.

The directorate is often seen as a very large tent within which a number of events take place. The directorate receives oversight from its Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI) and its several committees: the Committee on Aging, Committee on Psychology and AIDS, Committee on Children, Youth and Families, Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs, Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns and Committee on Women in Psychology.

Clearly, BAPPI and its committees and staff cover a wide range of issues and concerns of interest to the APA membership. In addition to the governance work there is public policy support for each issue, as well as intensified work when necessary.

Thus, these are matters of interest not only to the APA membership, but to society in general. Here are a few recent activities:

* In addition to the governance and policy work on the issues and concerns mandated by APA's Board of Directors and Council of Representatives, there are ad hoc groups such as task forces and working groups that are appointed to delve into and report on specific matters.

In fact, children and family issues seem to spur many activities. At present there are two active groups--one looking at children's mental health issues, the other at advertising to children. Their work on these topics will be informative to the many child-oriented divisions as well as to the membership in general.

* Another way the directorate staff helps to carry out the association's missions is through conferences using contract or grant funds. Early last year, staff working with the Women's Program Office convened in Toronto at the conference "Work, Stress and Health: New Challenges in a Changing Workplace." This activity is a partnership between APA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health.

* The AIDS Office has attracted continuing support for its efforts, getting ongoing grant support for two programs. Using federal Center for Mental Health Services funds, the office continues to provide training for psychologists and other mental health professionals through the HIV/AIDS Office for Psychology Education (HOPE) program. And with support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the AIDS Office also administers the Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer program, ensuring that competent professionals advise community-based organizations in their planning of AIDS prevention activities.

* Responding to a Commission on Ethnic Minority Retention, Recruitment and Training in Psychology recommendation on ethnic-minority training, the directorate's Office on Ethnic Minority Affairs, with National Institute of General Medical Sciences support, has created regional academic groupings to train people of color in health psychology.

The funding agency's decision to support the project was influenced by the need to move more minority students through the academic pipeline, consisting of community colleges, four-year colleges and psychology departments in research universities.

* Following years of work on violence prevention, APA, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Ad Council, using funds from APA and the Metropolitan Life Foundation, has created a national media campaign and training effort--Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence--aimed at adults who care for young children. The ACT program, now in its fourth year, has provided important violence prevention and child development information.

The Public Interest Directorate has been able to garner considerable resources to carry out a diverse set of activities. Take a closer look at them on the APA Public Interest Web site. We believe the membership will be pleased to know what we have done in the public interest.