Feature

Leading health experts gathered in Washington, D.C., to answer one of the nation's most pressing questions: What are the best ways to address women's health and mental health needs in a population that's steadily growing older and more diverse?

The meeting, "Enhancing Outcomes in Women's Health: Translating Psychosocial and Behavioral Research into Primary Care, Community Interventions and Health Policy," held Feb. 21-23, drew women's health researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and advocates from psychology and other behavioral and social sciences, public health, nursing and medicine.

"Our goals in this conference include going beyond palliative intervention," said conference co-chair Renee Royak-Schaler, PhD, at the conference's opening session. "We need to address the health outcomes that are associated with inequity in social policy."

Indeed, while less than 5 percent of the $1 trillion spent on health care in America is devoted to reducing risk posed by psychosocial and behavioral factors, some estimate that lifestyle behaviors contribute to almost half of an individual's health status, pointed out APA Past-president Norine G. Johnson, PhD, in her opening remarks.

The solution? "We need a revolution," said keynote speaker Marilyn H. Gaston, PhD, former assistant surgeon general. "There is no question that we need a radical change in the situation of our health in this nation." In her keynote address (see next page), Gaston called for a more effective health service delivery system, more research on women's health, better training for health professionals and the involvement of community groups on women's health issues.

The conference presenters highlighted how psychosocial and behavioral knowledge is already being applied to improve the health and mental health care of women. They also emphasized the importance of creating evidence-based interventions and carefully translating research into primary care, community interventions and health policy. Finally, they also stressed the importance of addressing ethnic and cultural diversity, socioeconomic status, and age in efforts to reduce women's psychological distress, improve their quality of life and prevent and lessen the impact of diseases, such as arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The conference built on two previous APA-sponsored meetings on women's health, said Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, conference co-chair and associate executive director in APA's Public Interest Directorate, in an attempt to "bring together the different women's health professions for the good of all women to really have an impact on women's health--because working together is the only way that we are going to have that impact."