Social Work Interventions in Health & Aging: Evidence for Effectiveness

Friday, January 16, 2015: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Balconies J, Fourth Floor (New Orleans Marriott)
Cluster: Health and Disability
Symposium Organizer:
Victoria Rizzo, PhD, State University of New York at Binghamton
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents new, and potentially significant, opportunities for social workers in aging and health.  ACA specifically provides programming guidelines and funding directed at the most vulnerable and costly individuals in the U.S. healthcare system.  These populations include individuals who have never had access to health insurance previously, dual eligibles (individuals who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid), individuals with multiple chronic illnesses, and individuals diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers.  Currently, social workers are critical providers of health and mental health services to these populations. However, they have been less successful than other professions in making known the efficacy and effectiveness of their interventions to federal policy makers and funders of innovative programs under ACA. The ongoing changes in the U.S. health care system in response to ACA make urgent the need to demonstrate the efficacy and efficiency of social work services in aging and health in order to ensure that the profession has a prominent place at the table as important health care reform decisions are made about: 1) what health and social services will be provided to vulnerable populations; 2) who should provide, and be reimbursed for these services; 3) where these health and social services should be delivered; and 4) how  barriers/facilitators of health insurance and health care services access will be addressed by health care professionals and policy makers.

 The specific aim of this symposium is to provide evidence for the efficacy and efficiency of social work services in health and aging at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels in order to contribute to the important national conversations that are occurring about health care reform decisions.  The first paper sets the stage by presenting the results of a meta-analysis focused on social work interventions in aging and health. The paper calls for rigorous research to examine the differential impact of social work on the health and psychosocial outcomes of older adults (Rizzo & Rowe). Papers two (Golden & Krajci) and three (Gould, Bronstein et al.) report the positive and significant results of two studies that examine social work interventions in areas of significance to ACA: care coordination and the integration of psychosocial factors in patient centered medical homes and discharge planning to reduce hospital readmission rates.   The fourth, and final, paper examines an ACA patient navigator program at a school of social welfare. The research design emphasizes the examination of state level policy factors (such as Medicaid expansion, federal or state exchange, laws passed prohibiting Navigators) that influence enrollment at a population level (Warner & Smith).  Taken together, the papers in this symposium provide evidence to support the value of social work services in health and aging in this time of significant health care reform. The symposium is timely given the implementation of the signature ACA regulation in 2014, the individual mandate, which contributes to the projected 23.3% increase in need for health care social workers by the year 2020.

* noted as presenting author
Studies of the Cost-Effectiveness of Social Work Services in Aging: An Updated Review of the Literature
Victoria Rizzo, PhD, State University of New York at Binghamton; Jeannine M. Rowe, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
Implementing & Evaluating a Strengths-Based Social Work Intervention to Reduce Re-Hospitalizations: An RCT
Paul Gould, PhD, State University of New York at Binghamton; Sean Berkowitz, MD, Fallon Health, Summit Eldercare
A Comparative Case Study of ACA Navigators: Enrollment Activities in Hostile and Supportive State Policy Contexts
Lynn A. Warner, PhD, State University of New York at Albany; Brenda D. Smith, PhD, University of Alabama
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