Government Relations Update

APA Comments on Draft Objectives for Healthy People 2020

By Pat Kobor

In December 2009, the American Psychological Association submitted comments on the draft objectives of Healthy People 2020, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that will guide public health research and programs in the coming decade.  APA members, divisions and staff were consulted in the development of APA’s comments. Among APA’s suggestions were:

  • That the Healthy People 2020 document specifically reference psychologists and health psychologists as members of health care teams.

    "One general APA comment that may be applied to multiple objectives concerns the absence of mention of psychologists in general, and Health Psychology in particular as a subfield and professional designation. In contrast, several of the sections on particular aspects of physical health in Healthy People 2020 describe the need for education and training of allopathic physicians, osteopathic physicians and nurses (e.g. AHS-HP2020-9). Psychologists are widely recognized as bona fide members of health care delivery teams and are broadly trained to enhance quality of care and patient outcome. The absence of mention is surprising given that Congress and federal agencies have acknowledged for many years the central role played by behavioral and psychological factors in health promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery."

  • That an objective be added concerning the reduction of stigma associated with HIV infection.

    "AIDS-related stigma has had a profound effect on the epidemic’s course. The WHO cites fear of stigma and discrimination as the main reason why people are reluctant to be tested, to disclose HIV status or to take antiretroviral drugs. One study found that participants who reported high levels of stigma were more than four times more likely to report poor access to care…"

  • That an objective be added to help reduce harassment and bullying involving sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

    "Children's health is negatively affected by hostile actions of others, by anxiety created by threatening environments, by the need to hide one's identity, and by stress created by harassment and bullying which may apply to the entire school experience… Proposed Data Sources(s): Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) student climate survey (2007)."

  • That an objective be added on reduction of mortality and disability due to mental disorders, substance use or cognitive impairments in individuals aged 65 and over.

    "The 1999 Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health found that disability due to mental disorders, substance use or cognitive impairments in individuals aged 65 and over will become a major public health problem in the near future due to changing demographics. Almost 20% of persons age 55 and over experience specific mental and cognitive disorders that are not part of the "normal" aging process including a prevalence rate of 11.4% for anxiety disorders (DHHS, 1999). As many as 20% of older adults in the community and up to 37% in primary care settings experience symptoms of depression (DHHS, 1999). Older adults have the highest suicide rate of any age group with persons 85 years of age and older having a rate almost double (21 per 100,000), and older white men having a rate almost six times (65 per 100,000) the suicide rate of the general population (10.6 per 100,000) (CDC, 1999)…"

The Full set of APA’s comments can be found by visiting the Healthy People 2020 Comment System and entering the search term "American Psychological Association" under organization.