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Arthur Blank, MD, wrote in Traumatic StressPoints in 1997, “Most readers are familiar with the remarkable emergence of recognition and treatment for trauma patients, including survivors of the full range of traumatic events – war, sexual abuse, assault, disasters, torture, etc. What is too easily forgotten is that these developments followed years of advocacy by public officials, mental health professionals, patients and others. There is no trauma field without advocacy.”

The ISTSS Strategic Plan recognizes our role in making a difference for society at large, going beyond the professional needs of our members and other trauma professionals.

Strategic Goal #3: Societal Impact

ISTSS contributes to the health and resilience of people and communities in the face of traumatic events. We do this by promoting public awareness and informing public policy.

Do you have ideas about how ISTSS can achieve this goal? Follow @ISTSSNews on Twitter, and join the conversation (#istsscommunity):

  • What is the most important thing ISTSS can do to promote public awareness of the impact of trauma?
  • To inform public policy?
  • How can ISTSS establish trauma as a public health issue?

Following on Dr. Blank’s message from nearly two decades ago, what are the gaps in practice and policy today that ISTSS can uniquely and effectively address? As a professional organization, it is not always obvious how ISTSS can best address broader societal goals. How do we balance outreach to trauma professionals (our members and others) with outreach to the broader public or to policy makers? As an international organization, how do we balance local, national, and international levels of advocacy?

ISTSS has long been involved in advocacy in one form or another. Our website highlights some of those efforts and the ways that our members’ work has societal impact. If you know of ISTSS members who are making a difference in policy or public awareness related to trauma, please send your story to the ISTSS Web Editor. One recent example is ISTSS’ participation in an Amicus Brief that addressed an ongoing court case in the US to try to ensure that children who have been sexually abused cannot be required to undergo “sexual orientation change” treatment. Read more about this here.

When the Board created the Strategic Plan in 2011, it also delineated at least one specific strategy that ISTSS would undertake – helping to establish traumatic stress as a public health issue for research, practice, and policy. We have begun to address that in the past year, with the Trauma and Public Health Task Force appointed by Past President Karestan Koenen and chaired by Kathy Magruder. This Task Force is hard at work, and will present recommendations to the Board in November for specific actions that ISTSS can undertake to frame and promote traumatic stress as a public health issue to colleagues, policy makers and the general public. The Task Force is also preparing a white paper and will present a framework for thinking about trauma as a public health issue at a featured session at our 30th Annual Meeting in Miami.