Session: Social Work and Health Equity: A Critical Framework for Building a Culture of Health (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

310 Social Work and Health Equity: A Critical Framework for Building a Culture of Health

Sunday, January 19, 2020: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Independence BR A, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Health (H)
Matthew Bakko, MSW, MA, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Alberto Cifuentes, Jr., LMSW, University of Connecticut, Cristina Gomez-Vidal, MSW, University of California, Berkeley, Monica Gutierrez, MSW, Arizona State University and Sireen Irsheid, MSW, LCSW, University of Chicago, School of Service Administration
Background: Social work research cuts across areas of human experience and oppression to advance social justice and the lifelong health and well-being of individuals, groups, and communities. The Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative has set a targeted agenda for solving problems identified as particularly pressing by social work research leadership, including closing the health gap. Meanwhile, public health researchers and practitioners are increasingly using a health equity framework to enact social change. Health equity research focuses on historical and structural factors that are at the root of societal and racial health inequities, all of which are established determinants of health and well-being. Social work's focus on multiple and interconnected systems and anti-oppressive practice aligns well with the structural lens of health equity. Therefore, social work is uniquely positioned to provide necessary leadership for leveraging our field's expertise while also exploring the joint opportunities a health equity framework could provide the public health and social work fields.

Purpose: This roundtable discussion will describe the opportunities and challenges navigated by social workers employing a prominent health equity framework. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health Action Framework is an actionable vision towards an equitable and healthy society that guides the work of numerous researchers and practitioners. Four actions areas drive this vision: 1) Making health a shared value; 2) Fostering cross-sector collaboration to improve well-being; 3) Creating healthier, more equitable communities; and 4) Strengthening integration of health services and systems. The holistic, transdisciplinary, and aspirational scope of this increasingly popular framework has much to offer social work research as it takes concrete steps towards solving Grand Challenges and related social problems. However, the connection between such a health equity framework and social work has been relatively unexplored, leaving social work in danger of being siloed from a crucial transdisciplinary conversation. This roundtable will discuss the benefits and limitations of this framework for shaping social work research agendas. Presenters will share lessons from their own attempts to integrate health equity and the Culture of Health Action Framework into social work scholarship and practice.

Approach: This roundtable will provide a foundation for identifying the intersections between social work and health equity. We will describe the Culture of Health Action Framework and its application to the mission and practice areas of social work. Five social work doctoral graduate students, all participants in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Policy Research Scholars program, will discuss the application of the framework to their own research and practice. Each presenter is working in a different practice area, including mental health practice, poverty and discrimination, and place-based community development, and will discuss health equity from their own situated perspective. Presenters will highlight the role that power, privilege, and oppression plays in tackling health equity goals across these multiple research and practice areas, including inequitable institutional and policy barriers that delimit change efforts. In addition, the complementarity between the Culture of Health Action Framework and the Grand Challenges of Social Work initiative will be highlighted.

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