In Brief

A new APA task force created by APA President Ronald F. Levant, EdD, is bringing together a coalition of professional organizations to write and release a mission statement promoting integrated health care.

The Task Force on Health Care for the Whole Person--a Levant presidential initiative chaired by clinical psychologist Margaret Heldring, PhD--is identifying the conceptual arguments for and empirical evidence supporting integrated health-care strategies that, for example, place various health-care providers, including primary-care physicians and psychologists, in settings where they can work together.

The group, which is made up of a diverse array of professionals including economists, physicians and psychologists, aims to show how the biopsychosocial model can ease many of the nation's public health problems, such as the onslaught of chronic illnesses related to obesity, a condition that can be treated through behavioral-health interventions.

"The historical separation of physical from mental throughout our health-care system is precisely the problem that my 'Health Care for the Whole Person' presidential initiative was designed to solve," Levant says. "By collaborating with a broad range of health-care organizations on a public statement about the role of psychology in health care, I hope to promote the integration of physical and psychological health care in a reformed system."

Associations such as the American Public Health Association, the American College of Nurse Practitioners, the Center for the Advancement of Health, Families USA and the Society for Behavioral Health are working with the task force to refine a draft statement, says Heldring, president of the universal health-care advocacy group America's Health Together. The task force expects to release its statement at APA's 2005 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., Aug 18-21.

"One of our audiences for this statement is the public...to let them know we're all getting together at last," Heldring says. "Other audiences will be the provider community, purchasers of health care and policy-makers."

The group intends for the statement to serve as a tool for informing legislative debates on health care and to aid education and training programs that prepare health-care professionals to work in a multidisciplinary health-care environment, Heldring added.

Of the 30 health-care groups task force members have contacted so far, all have been responsive and eager to bring the issue into their organization for internal review, says Heldring.

"Our leading this project makes a lot of sense because psychology can really be health care without boundaries," Heldring says. "We cut across the life span; we cut across acute illness and chronic illness, preventative and acute care, communities, schools and health-care settings. We sit everywhere."

--K. KERSTING