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Social Work HEALS


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 is transforming the delivery of health care services in the United States by emphasizing the triple aim of improved health outcomes, greater access to care, and reduced health care costs. At the same time, more people are living longer with chronic health and behavioral health conditions as the size of the population over the age of 65, and especially over the age of 80, continues to expand. The United States is also becoming increasingly racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse with many individuals facing health disparities and inequitable access to quality services.

Due to this changing landscape of health care service delivery, social workers should be involved in all aspects of care , since addressing social needs in health care has been shown to have a significant impact on health outcomes . Social workers are well prepared to address these social determinants of health, and they can play critical roles in reducing non-medical barriers to health care access.

Several new service models that employ a team approach to care have been designed to achieve the goals of the triple aim, including Patient-Centered Medical Homes, Medicaid Health Homes, and Accountable Care Organizations. These models require the use of care coordinators, behavioral health providers, patient educators, and outreach specialists. Few professions offer the skills and training to fulfill these roles better than social work.

Although social workers do play multiple roles in the health care delivery system at all professional levels, they are not currently consistently integrated into health care teams. The social work profession also faces hindrances in terms of recruitment, retention and retirements. The next generation of social work leaders in health care needs to be prepared to implement the highest quality services and to be effective members of interdisciplinary teams. Social workers at all levels of the profession must be prepared to strengthen the delivery of health care services through evidence-based practice, testing of new practice interventions and policy innovations, and stimulating policy to ensure investment in the social work workforce and our most vulnerable populations.

Social Work HEALS: Social Work Health care Education and Leadership Scholars was created to develop the next generation of health care social work leaders who will stand ready to lead efforts to address system-level changes, to heighten awareness of prevention and wellness, and to address the issues of structural racism that are embedded in social institutions.

Project Overview

The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) have partnered together to develop and implement Social Work HEALS: Social Work Health care Education and Leadership Scholars. Social Work HEALS aims to educate and train social workers from the BSW to post-doctoral levels to strengthen the delivery of health care services in the United States. This will be accomplished by creating a cohort of health care social work leaders at every professional level (including BSW, MSW, and PhD/DSW students and post-doctoral graduates) together with practice, research, and policy mentors and leaders. The New York Community Trust provided the generous funding for this project.

Project Goals

  1. Attracting and educating a new generation of BSW and MSW students who receive excellent field instruction, course work, and leadership opportunities so that they are well positioned to be an integral part of the health care delivery team.
  2. Ensuring excellence in applying culturally competent, evidence-based practice in health care settings by providing professional development and mentorship to field instructors, and created a network that fosters effectiveness across settings.
  3. Building the next generation of social work academic and practice leaders through supporting social work doctoral students who are contributing to the knowledge base of innovative health care delivery through their practice and policy research.
  4. Strengthening social work’s seat at the table by supporting doctoral and post-graduate policy fellows who will contribute to national health care policy improvements.

Project Activities

Social Work HEALS will accomplish these goals through three activity frameworks:

  1. Scholarships and fellowships for baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral social work students
  2. Policy fellowships for social work doctoral or post-doctoral students
  3. Educational enhancements and strategies to promote system changes through building learning networks, leadership development, and training opportunities

Expectations and Financial Support for Fellows

Doctoral Fellows will be expected to participate in an orientation, periodic support calls, and to attend related program events at the CSWE Annual Program Meeting (APM), Society for Social Work & Research or NASW National Conference. The fellows may be asked to present about their work at the APM or NASW conference.

As part of the award, the recipient will be expected to submit a final dissertation to the NASW Foundation upon completion.

In 2017 - 2018, each fellowship (including Jane B. Aron) will be awarded in the amount of $17,900. A total of $15,500 will be disbursed directly to the recipient's university. An additional $2,400 will be earmarked for conference attendance and participation and leadership development. Expenses for conferences and professional development must be approved through the NASW Foundation and funds will not be distributed directly to the recipient.

Instructions for Applications

Please submit completed applications no later than March 1, 2017, 11:59 pm Eastern Time. Selected awardees will be notified in June 2017.

BSW/MSW Scholarship Opportunities

Please visit CSWE for more information.

Social Work HEALS and Jane B. Aron Doctoral Fellowship Guidelines

1 Social Work Policy Institute. (2011). Investing in the Social Work Workforce.

2 Social Work Policy Institute. (2012). Critical Conversation-Social Work in Health and Behavioral Health Care: Visioning the Future.

3 Bachrach, D. Pfister, H., Wallis, K. & Lipson, M. (2014). Addressing Patients’ Social Needs: An Emerging Business Case for Provider Investment.

4 NASW. (2014). Standards for Social Work Practice in Health Care Settings. Draft for Member Review, Summer 2014.

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