Chinese-American psychologist Larke Nahme Huang wants to see more psychologists advocate for psychology-informed public policy.
"We should ask ourselves, 'How can we use our work as psychologists to better inform policy?'" she says, noting that psychologists' work is particularly relevant to the development of social policies, such as children's mental health or reducing disparities in behavioral health care.
Huang applies her more than 25 years of work with children's mental health care to policy in Washington, D.C. She is drawn to the topic because she views children with emotional and behavioral issues as "vulnerable citizens without a voice" and children of color to be "doubly jeopardized." To help, Huang has worked to develop effective children's mental health policy across local, state and territorial lines.
In doing this she draws on her previous work as a clinical practitioner with a focus on Asian-American youth and her current work at the American Institutes for Research, where she conducts applied research and policy evaluation projects on children's mental health services. She also provides policy-makers with a psychological perspective to help them develop sound legislation.
"Working on policy-related issues goes back to what initially got me interested in psychology-looking at how broader systems affect individuals," she says.
Her work has drawn national attention. In 2002, President Bush selected her to serve on the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, a body that conducted an intensive study of the nation's mental health delivery system and provided recommendations for the system's improvement and transformation. Huang co-chaired the commission's Children and Families Subcommittee and prepared a blueprint for improving children's mental health services in the report. She also co-authored the background paper for the commission's Cultural Competence Subcommittee.
Since 2001, she also served on The Carter Center's Mental Health Task Force, which aims to reduce stigma and discrimination against people with mental illnesses, achieve equity for mental health care comparable to other health care and increase prevention and early-intervention services.
Although Huang says that progress has been made in children's mental health care, she notes that there is still work to be done.
"While we are making inroads with the systems of care approach in children's behavioral health, most children still do not get the necessary clinically and culturally appropriate care that they need to help them live thriving lives in their communities," she says. "And this is particularly the case with children of color."
Within APA, Huang has served on the Committee on Children, Youth and Families and is a regular member of the Minority Fellowship Program Advisory Committee.