In the Public Interest

Usually, when I develop an update of Public Interest Directorate activities, I write about its governance overseen by the Board for the Advancement of Psychology in the Public Interest (BAPPI), its seven committees and the several staff offices. Typically, there is a recitation of the general charge of public interest (PI), part of the APA purpose "to advance psychology...as a means of promoting human welfare."

Often, a summarization of the various PI activities would follow to help the reader understand the scope and depth of our efforts. Somewhere in either a restatement of the PI goals or discussion of its work during a particular year, there is usually a reference to George Miller's APA presidential address in which he used the phrase "giving psychology away" as a means of providing psychological knowledge and expertise to the public at no charge.

Most updates reaffirm that the directorate, its governance and staff are in fact continuing to promote human welfare by giving psychology away.

Our scope of issues

Even the casual visitor to the room in which Public Interest documents, brochures, books and others publications are stored is usually impressed by the variety of materials. Implicit sometimes, explicit at others, is the idea that "human," as used in the APA purpose, should be broadly interpreted to include diverse peoples, groups and populations.

Over the years, APA leadership and member constituencies have attempted to expand the notion of "advancing human welfare" to include women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Each time, Public Interest has been the directorate assigned to process the issues, recommend policy, and ultimately, to give that aspect of psychology away. The PI publication room contains documents that organize psychology in ways that help to combat sexism, racism and homophobia. Most single copies of these publications cost nothing. Multiple copies cost more.

In recent years, the directorate's responsibility for "advancing human welfare" has grown to include aging, urban initiatives, violence, workplace issues and adolescent health. Publications have been developed in each of these areas and are available to the membership and public at little or no cost. In some instances, external funds have been provided to support distribution of these materials.

Virtual PI tour

APA members and the general public can visit the APA/PI Web site and the PI publications room at www.apa.org/pi. Except for the archived publications, brochures, pamphlets, books and other documents have been developed by PI governance groups and staff on a variety of issues. These are available to the public and members.

A sample of what can be found:

  • A disability pamphlet, "Enhancing Your Interactions With People With Disabilities."

  • A recently passed Council of Representatives resolution, "Guidelines for Psychotherapy With Lesbian, Gay And Bisexual Clients."

  • A public policy position paper, "Hate Crimes Today: An Age-Old Foe in Modern Dress."

Further explorations of the Web site yield an announcement of an upcoming conference, "Enhancing outcomes in women's health: translating psychosocial and behavioral research into primary care, community interventions and health policy," scheduled for Oct. 4­6, 2001; an AIDS Office, CDC-funded, community-based project, "Behavioral and Social Science Volunteer Program," and a biomedical, National Institute for General Medical Sciences-funded project newsletter, "Pipeline."

Further clicks on the Web site take one to the "Aging and Human Sexuality Resource Guide," and to a Maternal and Child Health Bureau-funded project on "Adolescent Health." All pages offer complimentary Public Interest publications.

These titles represent only a sample of publications available from the directorate via the Internet. It is anticipated that they will be downloaded, copied and made available to students, members and, as appropriate, the public.