My grandmother once said, "There's a lot to enjoy in life, if you have your health."
Six months after becoming a widow, she moved with her four small children to Louisville, Ky., to study nursing. For the six months before she made that move, she suffered from what today we know is depression, undiagnosed, untreated. That was 1915.
Today, despite the volumes of statistics that demonstrate the benefits of removing the line between mental health and health, the percentage of health dollars spent on mental health care has decreased. We know that emotional conditions affect physical health. Yet, psychologists are still not reimbursed for their involvement with patients with primary-health problems. In fact, many people have no more access to a psychologist than my grandmother did in 1915. Indeed, the system is failing. The public is disenchanted with managed care and concerned about the quality and accessibility of health services. The time is right for psychologists to partner with the public, policy-makers and other health professions to promote new approaches.
Expanding our opportunities
Psychology is the logical discipline to provide leadership in social and behavioral science research and professional practice in health. That is why I've selected three initiatives for my presidential year: "Psychology Builds a Healthy World: Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families, Healthy Communities," "Expanding Opportunities in Psychology Practice" and "Expanding Opportunities in Psychological Science." The mission of the initiatives is to:
Inform our members of the cutting-edge research and practice psychologists are conducting and expanding opportunities in psychology practice and psychological science.
Inform the public of psychology's contributions to health.
Provide leadership in expanding partnerships with the public, policy-makers and other professionals that promote new approaches to health research and health-care delivery.
The initiatives are fortunate to have task force members who are eminent scholars and practitioners in their areas of expertise and who represent the diversity of American psychology. (See box on page 4.) All the initiatives will provide cutting-edge programming as part of APA's Annual Convention in San Francisco, Aug. 2428. Each initiative is also developing a component that uses new technology. The "Healthy World" initiative will sponsor an interactive program with psychologists and parents of children with cancer that will be available as streaming video on APA's Web site around the country. The "Expanding Opportunities in Psychology Practice" initiative is developing online consultation services so psychologists may discuss with experts new approaches to practice. The "Expanding Opportunities in Psychological Science" initiative is developing Web-based information for psychological scientists on research opportunities in a variety of nontraditional and nonacademic settings.Ongoing projects
All of APA's directorates have ongoing projects that demonstrate their commitment to improving the public's health and welfare, changing the health-care system and expanding opportunities for psychology research and practice. Some of the highlights include:
The Practice Directorate's sustained commitment to psychology's place in the health delivery system through its Public Education Campaign and recent victories in lawsuits against managed-care practices.
The Public Interest Directorate's commitment to the availability of culturally sensitive and appropriate treatments to communities as well as the inclusion of persons from those communities as deliverers, researchers and educators.
The Science Directorate's involvement in the Decade of Behavior advances the mission of bringing the accomplishments of behavioral health research to public awareness and into policy, by activities to bridge the science and medical and public health communities for broader collaboration, and by activities to ensure substantial and sustained financial support for behavioral and social science health research and training.
The Education Directorate's initiatives promote the education and training of psychologists in health research, practice and public policy. The directorate advances the teaching of health psychology and applying psychology to create healthy educational environments.
In addition, throughout the year, the Monitor will run a monthly article examining ways psychology contributes to our nation's health--starting with this month's cover story.
Meanwhile, the ideas for the three initiatives came from you, APA's members, so I sincerely appreciate your involvement in bringing them to fruition. If you have a research project or an intervention that is related to the initiatives, please let me know. Also, we are forming a Health Council of division and state association representatives--let us know if you would like to be involved. Together we will inform the public about psychology's contribution to health.