By Gurpreet Singh
Psychology is a behavioral science and plays a major role in health advocacy and disease prevention. This is accomplished by addressing health disparities in regards to scientific evidence. The American Psychological Association (APA) expounds upon several areas in which psychology plays a key role such as furthering assessment and treatment in primary care and specialized healthcare settings.
The APA is keen on addressing integrated health care. This incorporates a team of health care professions with a high level of collaboration and communication, along with shared leadership and decision-making authority. The goal is to develop and implement a comprehensive treatment plan to address the overall needs of the patient. For example, psychologists contribute by providing early intervention and wellness services which would include behavioral health assessment and treatment furthering the aid of individuals who suffer a range of mental and behavioral health and substance abuse disorders.
The APA also contributes to the research and treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease. Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that involves the progressive decline in cognitive function, causing problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common form of dementia and the sixth leading cause of mortality in the U.S. Because of its prevalence, psychologists have been at the forefront in efforts to help advance cognitive assessment techniques. Such techniques are used to help individuals with Alzheimer’s make medical, financial, and legal decisions.
As you can see, psychology plays an integral role in a variety of aspects of healthcare, but one overlooked field that the APA is involved in is childhood and adolescent obesity. Roughly one third of children form the age of 2 to 19 years are overweight or obese. The percentage of obese children from the age of 6 to 19 has tripled in last the decade and the ages 5 and below has doubled. This is inadvertently encouraged by parents who use food as a reward—positive reinforcement— and so children and adolescents will turn to food for comfort more often than just for nutrition. In turn, obesity inflicts other psychological issues on children. However, psychologists are creating assessments to help develop appropriate and targeted intervention plans for childhood and adolescent obesity.
There’s more to what psychology entails in today’s day and age. Research is much more advanced and the understanding of healthcare from a psychological perspective is being furthered. It is not “oh you’re a psychologist, you must be able to read my mind,” anymore but “oh you’re a psychologist, how can I help my uncle with Alzheimer’s live and adapt to the environment around him.”