President's Column

Next month APA and psychology will be part of an exciting and, I think, groundbreaking television broadcast. On Tuesday, Oct. 2 (check your local listings), PBS will broadcast "5 Girls," a new documentary that follows the lives of five adolescent girls for two years. (see related Monitor story).

I encourage you to tune in to this outstanding film. I'm particularly proud of the role APA and APA's Task Force on Adolescent Girls have played in creating this film. A few years ago when Karen Zager and I were co-chairs of the task force, we were contacted by filmmaker Maria Finitzo of Kartemquin Films--producers of the award-winning film "Hoop Dreams." She wanted to begin work on a new film about adolescent girls and wanted advice about how to capture the reality of adolescence in a real and compelling way.

The task force, with the assistance of the APA Office of Public Communications, excitedly began a four-year collaboration with Kartemquin. Dr. Zager and I encouraged Finitzo and her team to focus on the two aspects we had stressed in our book, "Beyond Appearance: A New Look at Adolescent Girls: Valuing the Strengths and Diversity of Teen Girls." We believed that the film could significantly contribute to the public's impressions and beliefs about adolescent girls by breaking the stereotypical portrayal of girls as depressed, rejecting of their parents, bulimic and sexualized. Our goal is to show real girls who value relationships with adults and peers and have unique challenges, goals and strengths.

Portraying girls' complexity

Cutting across racial and class lines, "5 Girls" captures the reality of strong young womanhood beautifully. The girls' stories and their collective power paint a realistic picture of the complexity, diversity and strength of adolescent girls. The viewer meets and gets to know each of the girls--Toby, Amber, Corrie, Aisha and Haibinh--and travels along as the girls discover the relationships, skills, mentors and strengths to traverse adolescence.

This film is groundbreaking in another way, as well. Teaming with Kartemquin Films and PBS is an important new public communications project for the association.

I hope this example encourages others to collaborate with the media on projects that tell psychology's story to the public. Working with the filmmaking team allowed APA members to use their expertise in the developmental issues of adolescence to help guide a far-reaching public education tool. This project is an important example of how psychology must translate science and practice for public consumption.

As part of this project, APA is also creating a brochure for parents, Staying Connected: Raising Adolescent Girls, which will be distributed by APA and PBS stations. There is also a website for adolescents and their parents.

Upcoming women's conference

On a related note, health issues of adolescent girls will be addressed during the upcoming conference on women's health titled "Enhancing outcomes in women's health: translating psychosocial and behavioral research into primary care, community interventions and health policy," October 4-6 in Washington, D.C. (see related Monitor story.)

Panel sessions, symposia and posters will examine health topics in the lives of adolescent girls. They include the patient/provider relationship; screening for risky behavior; enhancing HIV preventive practices; rape prevention; the epidemiology of substance use and abuse in girls; substance abuse prevention; ethnicity and adolescent health; and depression.

The conference is APA's third on women's health in the last seven years. This event is open to psychologists, psychiatrists, obstetricians, gynecologists, primary-care physicians, nurses, counselors, community health workers, public health educators and other women's health specialists.