APA is boosting its work in health-related activities, spanning all directorates and programs at APA's Central Office.

While the association has always been closely aligned with health, last year it stepped up its involvement in the area by amending the association's bylaws to include health in APA's mission statement. "We need to erase the line between health and mental health," says APA 2001 President Norine G. Johnson, PhD, who made "Psychology builds a healthy world" her presidential initiative.

This year, a work group, chaired by Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for practice, will create an integrated message about psychology and health based on the many health-related projects currently under way at APA's Central Office.

The group's first task was to compile a list of health-related activities in each program or directorate within APA. The lengthy list illustrates, according to Newman, that psychology really is a "comprehensive health profession."

Here's a snapshot of some of APA's health-related activities:

  • Practice Directorate. In a move that will provide psychologists with a more accurate way to bill for services for patients with physical health diagnoses, the directorate worked to develop new Current Procedural Terminology codes last year. Now, no mental health diagnosis is needed for psychologists to deliver services to patients with physical health diagnoses, as had been required in the past. On an international health level, the Practice Directorate is leading the effort to develop a multidisciplinary procedural manual and guide for the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) that will help clinicians use the ICF system during evaluation and treatment encounters with patients.

The directorate also collaborated with researchers at Duke University Medical Center on a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology demonstrating that psychological stress management interventions for patients at risk for coronary heart disease had significant clinical and financial benefits compared with either an exercise intervention or usual care. Over five years of follow-up, patients who had participated in the stress-management intervention had fewer cardiovascular events and medical costs one-third lower than patients given usual care.

The directorate also collaborated with the Journal of Health Promotion on a recent conference and with Pharmacia Corp. and the Pediatric Endocrine Nurses Association to develop training sessions on healthy growth in children.

  • Science Directorate. Staff are working with the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute of Mental Health to create a stronger behavioral presence in public health research. Last year, APA hosted several meetings that brought together public health educators, researchers and behavioral scientists to build mechanisms to get more behavioral scientists to work in public health--in roles such as faculty in public health programs or collaborators on public health research teams, for example. The directorate is also working with the National Cancer Institute on a workshop to encourage research on the development of new health theories through training workshops for scientists on theory-based medical research. Science policy staff worked with health-related organizations, such as the American Association of Medical Colleges and the American Public Health Association, on a variety of initiatives, such as seeking to double the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget as well as working to get specific "behavioral research-friendly" report language in the legislation that funds NIH. Public Policy Office (PPO) Science staff also worked on legislation that created the Center for Research on Minority Health and Health Disparities at NIH, and ensured that there is behavioral research representation on its advisory committee.

  • Public Interest Directorate. This office and its PPO staff work closely with the office of the U.S. Surgeon General to prepare and disseminate public health reports on topics such as mental health, children's mental health, suicide and youth violence. Staff members work to advance HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment initiatives through such vehicles as the National Minority AIDS Coalition and congressional briefings. APA's Women's Programs Office recently held the third women's health conference, "Enhancing Outcomes in Women's Health: Translating Psychosocial and Behavioral Research in Primary Care, Community Interventions and Health Policy."

And on Capitol Hill, PPO Public Interest policy staff continue their work to educate Congress about the role of behavior in health promotion and disease prevention, and advocate for federal support for education and training of psychologists as providers for underserved populations. Policy staffers also support legislative efforts to reduce health disparities and expand health coverage for the uninsured and working poor, and work with Congress to implement violence prevention and treatment initiatives especially for at-risk populations.

  • Education Directorate. APA offers many continuing professional education opportunities on health related topics at its convention and through independent study. The directorate also participated in the development of health-related unit lesson plans for high school psychology teachers, as well as a curriculum for education and training of psychologists in primary care. The Committee on Accreditation now accredits postdoctoral programs in the specialty clinical health psychology. Also, the directorate is participating with the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers and other organizations in planning a working conference on competencies in professional psychology, much of which is in preparation for health-care service delivery.

PPO Education policy staff have successfully advocated for the use of the term "health service psychologist" in all relevant health legislation, including amendments that affect the National Health Service Corps, the Community Health Centers and the Community Access Program. In addition, policy staff gained recognition of psychology as a primary health-care provider in the National Health Service Corps and advocated for funding to launch the only federal program for educating and training solely dedicated to psychologists in the Health Resources and Services Administration.

  • Publications and Communications. Eight of APA's journals are on health topics, including Health Psychology, Neuropsychology, Occupational Health Psychology and Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Each year, APA publishes approximately 15 books on health or physical disorders. Some of the titles include: "Helping Cancer Patients Cope," "Psychological Aspects of Serious Illness" and "Health Care for Women." Later this year, APA Books will release a three-volume "Handbook of Clinical Health Psychology." Also, almost 340,000 records in the PsycINFO database are classified under health.

  • Public and Member Communications. About one-third of the press releases sent to the media by the office are on health issues, and about half of the calls that the office fields from the media are on health-related topics. In addition, the office has developed several public information brochures covering health topics--recent ones discuss end-of-life issues and ADHD assessment and treatment. And, the Monitor regularly features articles that showcase psychology's role in health care.