Psychologists reach out to state legislatures

Mind/Body Health fairs in Georgia, Florida and Texas educate lawmakers

by Public Relations Staff

April 14, 20011—The grassroots network of psychologists that makes up APA’s multi-directorate Public Education Campaign (PEC) works to educate the public about how the science and application of psychology benefits society and improves lives. In Georgia, Florida and Texas, PEC volunteers are bringing their message directly to legislators’ doorsteps with Mind/Body Health fairs convened at state capitols.

APA’s Mind/Body Health Campaign utilizes national and local outreach activities to educate the public about the connection between psychological and physical health. The campaign also promotes psychologists as the best-trained health care providers to support healthy lifestyle and behavioral change. Topics include stress, heart disease and obesity.

After nearly 750 visitors visited Georgia’s health fair at an Atlanta mall in 2008, the PEC and Legal and Legislative Committees Georgia Psychological Association (GPA) worked to deliver a fair at the Georgia State Senate. The effort came to fruition in 2010, with February 3—the date of the fair—declared “Psychology Day” by the Georgia State Senate, the House of Representatives and the Governor’s office.

Florida Psychological Association members“By reaching out to the legislature, we demonstrated how public education can serve as a vehicle to advocate for psychology,” says Angela Londoño-McConnell, PhD, GPA Public Education Coordinator. “We educated lawmakers and provided a face to our profession.”

On March 9, 2011, the Florida Psychological Association (FPA) brought a Mind/Body Health fair to its state capitol for its annual legislative advocacy day. Organized by Florida public education coordinator Regina Mendoza, PsyD, and the FPA public education committee, the fair brought more than 20 Florida psychologists and graduate students to the rotunda of the Florida state capitol. FPA hung a Mind/Body Health banner on the balcony of the rotunda, providing an unmissable reminder to staffers and members coming through. “The health fair gave us the opportunity to educate the policy makers and their staff about the work psychologists do,” said Dr. Mendoza, “and as a result of the health fair, our volunteers were able to talk to key legislative staff members.”

Also on March 9, approximately 35 psychologists met at the state capitol in Austin for the Texas Psychological Association’s (TPA) bi-annual legislative day, adding public education to the group’s traditional legislative advocacy efforts. Kay Allensworth, PhD, the Texas coordinator for APA's Public Education Campaign, provided psychologists visiting the capitol with bright blue, TPA-branded bags. Psychologists distributed 350 of these “wellness bags” to legislative staff, stocked with APA public education material, including obesity, stress, anxiety and depression fact sheets. In their conversations with legislative staffers, the volunteers point out that psychologists are instrumental in behavioral health and have much to contribute to today's health care needs.

“The feedback from the legislators and their staffs was uniformly positive and one staffer stated that the materials were the most useful thing they received all session,” said Dr. Allensworth.

Learn how to get involved in Public Education Campaign efforts in your state.

APA members can order up to 50 copies of APA brochures free of charge from the APA Help Center.