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 James Marshall Public Policy Scholar's Update

 by Jutta Tobias

 

 

This has been a busy spring in Washington, DC! Many social issues dominated the public policy conversation inside the Beltway and in the national news. I was fortunate to be exposed to some of the major debates, including health care reform and economic recovery in the United States.

At APA, our government relations work was focused on health care reform initiatives. APA considers the health care reform debate in Congress as an important opportunity to advocate for an appropriate health infrastructure for all Americans; an opportunity with the potential to meet both their mental and behavioral health needs. The Public Interest Government Relations Office developed a range of legislative resources related to APA’s policy recommendations on health care reform, available at http://www.apa.org/ppo/pi/reform-resources.html.  In my role as Public Policy Fellow with APA’s Government Relations Office, I handle issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) concerns. I have engaged in health care reform advocacy in several ways. First, I represented APA in the National Coalition for LGBT Health (‘Coalition’), a coalition effort comprised of over fifty advocacy, policy, and education organizations (including APA), committed to improving the health and well-being of sexual and gender minorities. The Coalition's top three priorities for Federal health care reform are: 1) appropriate data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity in national health surveys; 2) a definition of the terms 'family' and 'spouse' that is inclusive of same-sex couples and their families for the purposes of health care provision; and 3) health care coverage that acknowledges and embraces the needs of transgender persons. As part of this effort, I joined the Coalition’s effort in discussing health disparity concerns for LGBT populations with Congressional Committee offices involved in health care reform initiatives, and shared APA's health care reform priorities with relevant parties there. Second, the Public Interest Government Relations Office submitted legislative language to both House and Senate Committees working on drafting forthcoming health care reform legislation. As part of this effort, I submitted language aimed at helping to eliminate the health disparities faced by the LGBT population. I also assembled and submitted comments relating to the above priorities for sexual and gender minorities to the Healthy People Consortium at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as input into the creation of an initial set of objectives for Healthy People 2020. The Healthy People initiative at HHS is concerned with science-based, decade-long national objectives for public health priorities, and the goals and objectives for Healthy People 2020 will be released in 2010. The last Healthy People initiative did not contain health program elements specific to the LGBT community, so this is a great opportunity to influence future governmental initiatives and thus contribute to the elimination of health disparities experienced by sexual and gender minorities. My other ongoing advocacy efforts include coalition work and collaborating with Congressional offices on such issues as sexual orientation and military service, employment non-discrimination, and the civil rights of same-sex couples and their families. I’ve drawn up several fact sheets on these topics, available at www.apa.org/pi/advocacy/lgbt.

At SPSSI, I have recently been focusing on adding more content to the SPSSI public policy resources. At this point in the development of SPSSI’s public policy shop, a broader range of policy-relevant resources is very useful when initiating contact with like-minded policy organizations as well as with policy-makers. In SPSSI’s Central Office, we have been working on adding a variety of policy-relevant resources to the website, organized by the types of content that SPSSI’s policy committee have identified as priorities for SPSSI members, (e.g. the global climate crisis, gay marriage, and the psychological effects of unemployment). Chris Woodside, SPSSI’s Policy Coordinator, and I have also created information resources that explain public policy and advocacy more generally to the interested reader. I have reached out to interested Congressional and advocacy stakeholders concerning several of SPSSI’s policy priorities. For example, with regards to the social justice aspect of climate change, I have begun collaborating with science-based coalitions. SPSSI has recently published an issue on Human Behavior and Environmental Sustainability (vol. 63, no. 1, 2007) in its flagship publication Journal of Social Issues, which is very timely and relevant in the current policy context. I have also reached out to APA’s Division 34, Population and Environmental Psychology, to ascertain how we can leverage our members’ expertise in areas where SPSSI’s interest overlap with those of Division 34. Do check out our public policy resources, available at www.spssi.org/policy, and let me have your comments. I would be delighted to help make these resources most relevant to our members and to other interested parties.

As far as my professional development activities are concerned, I’ve recently had a paper on enterprise in post-conflict Rwanda accepted with the Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, a multidisciplinary journal where my dissertation research fits in well. I’ve also been fortunate to be offered the opportunity to teach an online leadership class at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, during the upcoming academic year.

It would be my pleasure to discuss any of my activities with you in greater detail, and you can reach me at SPSSI at (202) 675-6956 or jtobias@spssi.org, and at APA at (202) 336-5668 or jtobias@apa.org.


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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin