From the President

President's Message

President Koocher discusses the need to educate policy makers on the importance of health care

By Gerald P. Koocher, PhD

National Conference in Pediatric Psychology

On behalf of the more than 500 attendees at our San Antonio conference, I want to express appreciation to Michael Roberts, Ric Steele, their planning committee, and the University of Kansas crew for a first-rate gathering. Photos elsewhere in this issue recount some of the excellent programs and posters. San Antonio provided a fantastic setting for food and fun as the end of Fiesta Week coincided with our program. It seems quite clear that such small, focused meetings offer a level of depth, quality, and socialization opportunities impossible at massive national meetings. Most of us left looking forward to the 2013 conference in New Orleans.

Educate Policy Makers on the Importance of Health Care

As we move further into the national budget debate, I encourage all of our members to focus on the need to educate policy makers regarding the implications of President Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) for pediatric patients and their families. Families can now get better access to health care and have more freedom from insurance abuses (e.g., denials of coverage to children with pre-existing chronic health problems). Research has documented how helping children get a healthy start in life prepares them for resilience and academic success. Pediatric psychologists have demonstrated the benefits of promoting prevention, wellness, and integrated behavioral health care services for families. We also understand the critical need to build a health care workforce that fully integrates behavioral health for children at all levels of patient acuity.

Our students and more senior colleagues have prepared well for these needs. I saw panel and poster presentations in San Antonio dealing with quality-oflife assessment, non-adherence, family stress, pain control, and multicultural care delivery – to name but a few of the key areas of recent progress in pediatric psychology. However, we need to take the next step and begin to carry the message to policy makers. Decreases in research and training funds, cuts in student loan programs, and rhetoric about "rolling back" or "defunding" the PPACA all pose significant threats to our continued progress.

I urge you to consider becoming more personally involved in educating society's leaders and the public regarding the importance of quality health care that integrates behavioral and biomedical practice in high-quality, patient-centered programs. You can tackle this in several ways starting at the level of patient care and progressing to direct advocacy.

  • Get involved with health centers in your community and help assure that patients served there have optimal access to behavioral health services.
  • Consider theses, dissertations, and research projects that address interventions and measurements focused on health outcomes and quality of life for those confronting chronic health conditions.
  • Get to know your legislators, particularly members of congress, and make sure they know about the good work going on in their district, especially when supported by Federal funding. Has your research, education, or training benefitted from government support? Do some of your patients get better care as a result of coverage not previously available? Such stories can prove powerful in influencing future voting behavior.
  • Consider spending a year consulting to a member of congress. APA and the American Psychological Foundation have funding dedicated for Congressional Science Fellows with special attention to health and child health policy.

These are just a few of the ways you can turn your passion for pediatric psychology into a powerful source of influence radiating well beyond your classroom, office, or clinic.