Arthur A. Stone, PhD, is challenging researchers to submit manuscripts that show how their findings can be used in practice.
"Many studies never get to the endpoint of health," says Stone, who began accepting manuscripts for Health Psychology on Jan. 1. "Researchers are looking at behavior and the physiological systems but they often don't show how it affects health or disease."
Researchers know, for example, that blood pressure and heart rate rise when someone experiences stress, but it's unclear whether repeated stress leads to hypertension. What's needed, says Stone, is for researchers to take their studies to the next step and determine how behavior affects illness and then explain how those finding can make a difference in treatment.
Stone is professor and vice-chair of the psychiatry department at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he also directs the Applied Behavioral Medicine Research Institute.
Translating psychologists' research into practice is a very difficult goal, he admits, but it's important because psychology needs to help other health practitioners understand how changing people's behaviors and cognitions--from exercising more and smoking less to developing supportive relationships--can prevent illness. For chronic diseases and conditions, health psychology has much to offer to help people come to terms with their illness by improving their coping skills and providing new insights into their condition. Studies that don't explain how behavior affects health might not have as much impact for health psychologists, physicians or other medical professionals because they don't see how they can apply the research to their practice.
Overall, he says, the fields of health psychology and behavioral medicine are becoming more important as physicians and managed-care companies gain an increased awareness of how behavior affects illness. Managed-care companies are increasing emphasis on preventive care and may be more willing to pay for behavioral interventions, such as smoking-cessation programs, to prevent chronic illnesses because they recognize it will save money later on costly hospital visits and operations.
Though Stone is considering ways to make the journal more interesting to read--such as by adding more commentaries and editorials, and possibly a letters-to-the-editor section--overall the journal will change minimally under his direction. "I want to maintain Health Psychology's reputation as the leading journal in behavioral medicine," he says.
Behavioral medicine is a subject Stone is an expert in as he was editor of Annals of Behavioral Medicine for the past three years. Prior to that appointment, he was associate editor for Health Psychology for five years. He is also president of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and he chairs a National Institutes of Health study section on behavioral medicine.
He will be working with a team of associate editors, all of whom are experts in different areas of health psychology: Karen M. Emmons, PhD, Seth C. Kalichman, PhD, Shari R. Waldstein, PhD, and Lizette Peterson, PhD.