SWPI Hosts CER Meeting

Joan Levy ZlotnikJoan Levy Zlotnik stressed the need to include social workers in CER strategy development.

Experts from the research, practice, policy and education arenas convened at NASW's national office to outline how the social work profession can best contribute to the growing attention to comparative effectiveness research, or CER, in health and psychosocial services.

The newly formed Social Work Policy Institute hosted the meeting, called "Social Work Research and Comparative Effectiveness Research: A Research Symposium to Strengthen the Connection."

Joan Levy Zlotnik is the director of SWPI. The think tank was launched in October to strengthen social work's voice in public policy, collect and disseminate information on what works in social work practice, and examine current and future issues in health care and social service delivery.

"This was our inaugural event and it brought together people from different disciplines that have a common goal of stimulating social work CER efforts and strengthening research/practice linkages," Zlotnik explained. "Speakers and attendees highlighted the diversity of people served by social workers and expressed the need to engage consumers, practitioners and researchers together in any upcoming efforts."

CER works to identify best practices by comparing different interventions and strategies to prevent, diagnose, treat and monitor health conditions. CER is a popular topic in Washington as agencies determine how best to use $1.1 billion in federal funds allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

The legislation states that the federal funds are designed to support research assessing the comparative effectiveness of health care treatments and strategies through efforts that:

  • Conduct, support or synthesize research that compares the clinical outcomes, effectiveness and appropriateness of items, services and procedures that are used to prevent, diagnose or treat diseases, disorders and other health conditions.
  • Encourage the development and use of clinical registries, clinical data networks and other forms of electronic health data that can be used to generate or obtain outcomes data.

"We need to make sure that as the government outlines its CER strategies, social workers are included in the development," Zlotnik said.

She added, "social workers are the ones who have involvement with people who are dealing with multiple problems and who live in diverse communities, which are stated priorities of federal CER efforts. Nearly half of the 100 priorities delineated by the Institute of Medicine relate to social work and we want social workers to originate research topics and be part of interdisciplinary research teams for CER projects and reviews."

Pete DelanySAMHSA’s Pete Delany told attendees that dissemination of information on research is vital to helping people: “If we don’t get it out there, who will?”

Speakers at the SWPI meeting included Peter Delany, director of the Office of Applied Studies in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and member of the Federal Coordinating Council on CER. He told attendees that dissemination of information on research is vital to helping people.

"If we don't get it out there, who will?" he said.

He also stressed that "CER should serve as tools, not rules, creating research that is relevant and useful to making health care decisions."

Another presenter was Katie Maslow, director for policy development at the Alzheimer's Association, who also served on the Institute of Medicine's committee to develop the top 100 national priorities for CER.

"Social workers need to be conducting this kind of research and training," she said, noting that it is vital that social workers originate the topics of research so co-workers will be convinced of the importance of the findings.

"SWPI and NASW can help social workers understand the value of CER and provide tools to allow them to help their clients understand and use CER results," Maslow said.

"The new federal commitment to expanding research in these areas is a welcomed validation of the efforts social workers perform and the importance of addressing the health care needs of the diverse populations that social workers serve, many of whom are often under-represented in current research efforts," Zlotnik said.

She noted a report from the SWPI meeting will be disseminated to the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies, social work researchers and the community to help guide social work CER projects as they relate to government priorities.

CSWE participation: The Social Work Policy Institute was among the topics discussed at the Council on Social Work Education's 2009 Annual Program Meeting, held in San Antonio in November.

Zlotnik presented "$1.1 Billion Dollars for Comparative Effectiveness Research: The Fit for Social Work's New Policy Institute" to introduce CSWE attendees to the newly established SWPI and its goals and provide guidance on social work's recommendations and potential contributions to comparative effectiveness research.

NASW staff also led information sessions about the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative, among other issues, and a workshop on the Whitney M. Young Jr. Model Leadership Development Institute.

For more information, visit The Social Work Policy Institute.