Social Work HEALS

Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars (HEALS) is a multi-faceted grant funded by the New York Community Trust (NYCT) between 2015 and 2021 to enhance social work education, practice, research and policy related to the delivery of health care services in the United States. The implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) recognized that there could be expanded roles for social workers to improve health care access, affordability, equity and quality. Social Work HEALS was created to pursue those opportunities and was implemented as a collaborative endeavor between two national organizations – the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), and the NASW Foundation, and the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).  HEALS Executive Summary read more>>>

The NASW Foundation and the Council on Social Work Education extend special thanks to the New York Community Trust for its investment to advance healthcare social work leaders.

Social Work Heals Scholarships and Doctoral Fellowships are no longer available.


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 also is 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 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.

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.

Social Work HEALS Project Overview

Social Work HEALS works 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 is providing the generous funding for this project.

HEALS Scholars talk about the importance of the HEALS program during the 2019 Student Policy Summit in Washington, DC.  

Project Goals
  • Attracting and educating a new generation of BSW and MSW students who receive excellent field instruction, course work, and leadership opportunities, so they are well positioned to be an integral part of the health care delivery team.
  • Ensuring excellence in applying culturally competent, evidence-based practice in health care settings by providing professional development and mentorship to field instructors, and creating a network that fosters effectiveness across settings.
  • Building the next generation of social work academic and practice leaders by supporting social work doctoral students who are contributing to the knowledge base of innovative health care delivery in their practice and policy research.
  • 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:

  • scholarships and fellowships for baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral social work students;
  • policy fellowships for social work doctoral or post-doctoral students; and,
  • educational enhancements and strategies to promote system changes through building learning networks, leadership development, and training opportunities. 

Social Work HEALS Fellowship Recipients


  • Erica Eliason, M. Phil, MPH, Columbia University. "The Effects of Health Insurance Eligibility Policies on Maternal Care Access and Childbirth Outcomes ." 
  • Renee Andersen Garbe , MSW,  Arizona State University. "Intimate Partner Violence Over the Life Course: An Examination of Help-Seeking, Health, and Well-being Among Older Adult Women".
  • Daniel Green, MSW, University of Southern California. "The Relationship Between Minority Stress, Access to Health Services and Health Disparities Among Sexual ."
  • Yeqing Yuan , LICSW, New York University. "Housing Stability among Individuals with Co-occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders Receiving Assertive Community Treatment Services: A Mixed-Methods Study."


  • Junghyun Park, New York University.  Studey examines the mechanisms of the risk factors and protective factors affecting the association between hearing loss and cognitive health among older adults."
  • Angela (Angie) Perone, University of Michigan. "Street-Level Bureaucracy amidst Conflicting Rights for LGBT Older Adults and Staff: Multi-Level Decision and Policymaking in Long-Term Care."
  • Qianwei Zhao, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, University of Southern California. "Incarceration Trajectories and Their Relation to the Mental Health Symptoms of Mothers Imprisoned in State and Federal Correctional Facilities: A Nationally Representative Longitudinal Study."
  • Yuanjin Zhou, University of Washington, Seattle, School of Social Work.  "Enhancing informal caregivers' capacities in addressing the fall risk among community-dwelling OADs."  


  • Deborah Moon, University of Kansas. "Preventing Adverse Childhood Experiences Through Trauma-Informed Integrated Primary Care: A Realist Evaluation.
  • Alexandra Morshed, MS, Washington University of St. Louis. "Rolling Back Social Policies: Examination of Patterns and  Predictors of Obesity Policy Dismantling."
  • Meghan Romanelli, New York University. "How do LGB help-seekers reach mental health treatment, interact with service providers, and use informal care options? An examination of health care access and mental health outcomes among LGB adolescents and adults.
  • Roger Wong, MSW, MPH, Washington University of St. Louis. "This study explores the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease risk and engagement in three particular lifestyle behaviors: physical activity, cigarette smoking, and social contact. What is the influence of lifestyle behaviors on the differential risk for Alzheimer’s disease between White and African American older adults?"
  • Emma Kay, University of Alabama. The study explores the association between health care payer type and HIV health among low-income people living with HIV.
  • Elizabeth Matthews, Rutgers University.  "Electronic Health Records and Integrated Mental Health Treatment: The Impact of Computer use on the Quality of Care."
  • Yi Wang, Washington University of St. Louis. The study aims to understand community environmental effects on activity engagement and well-being among community-dwelling older adults in the United States.
  • Eun-Hye Yi, Indiana University. "Using technology to Enhance the Economic Well-Being and Health of Dementia Caregivers: Implications for Social Work Practice and Policy."

  • Stephanie Begun, University of Denver. The study builds upon emerging literature that considers social network influences on homeless youths’ pro pregnancy attitudes and behaviors to inform more effective and culturally responsive approaches to pregnancy and HIV prevention among homeless youth.
  • Andrea Kennedy, University of Southern California. “The Longitudinal Impact of Family and Neighborhood Stress on Childhood Obesity among Maltreated and Comparison Youth.” 
  • Eun Ha Namkung, University of Wisconsin Madison. The study explores the inter-generational relationship in families of an adult child with disabilities and the implications for parental health. 
  • Beth Prusaczyk, Washington University of St. Louis. Research will examine how the healthcare system currently delivers transitional care to older adults with dementia and the variation in that delivery across patient and provider characteristics. 
  • Sara Green, University of Washington. The study examines the need for attention to programs, services, and policy initiatives for military family members who experience unique challenges at home such as separations, reintegration, stress exposure, and combat injuries.
  • Roxanne Kennedy, University of Pennsylvania. The dissertation project evaluates programs designed to integrate physical and behavioral health care for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) insured by New Jersey Medicaid and compare the effects of each program on participants’ health outcomes, healthcare costs, and healthcare utilization.
  • Suzanne Klawetter, University of Denver. The study explores maternal engagement in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) across race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status and maternal mental health.
  • Deirdre Shires, Wayne State University. “Healthcare Providers’ Willingness to Treat Transgender Patients: The Role of Attitudes, Knowledge, Experience, and the Health System Context”

Social Work HEALS Policy Fellowship

In 2017, the Social Work HEALS Policy Fellowship was a one year Fellowship awarded to a social worker who had completed at least two years of a doctoral program, with preference to providing a post-doctoral experience for applicants with a PhD or DSW degree. The Social Work HEALS Policy Fellow participated in a social work specific opportunity to use their social work knowledge and research experience to work in Washington, D.C., on critical health policy issues facing our nation. The Fellowship provided an annual salary with associated benefits, relocation expenses, and funds for professional development (award package up to $80,000).

The 2016 award was made for a 2017 fellowship to Janeen Cross, DSW, MBA, LCSW, Assistant Clinical Professor, Center for Social Work Education, Widener University.  Her 2015 Dissertation was “Breastfeeding - A Protective Intervention for Child Maltreatment of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Graduates.”
Social Work HEALS Scholars Elizabeth Matthews and Eun-Hye Yi At 2018 NASW National Conference

Social Work HEALS Scholars at the 2018 NASW National Conference. From left, Elizabeth Matthews, Rutgers University and Eun-Hye Yi, Indiana University.

Group Of Social Work HEALS Scholars At 2018 NASW National Conference

Group of Social Work HEALS Scholars following a Social Work HEALS luncheon at the NASW National Conference in Washington, D.C. in June 2018.

Young Woman Engrossed In Application At Table

To read bios of current NASW Foundation Scholars and Fellows follow this link >>

Meet the 2019-2020 HEALS BSW and MSW Scholars >>


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HEALS Summit

To learn about the 2019 Social Work HEALS Student Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. March 12-19 , please follow this link to VIEW a special video >>