Darla Spence Coffey, president of the Council on Social Work Education, speaks during a White House briefing that CSWE hosted in September. Several NASW leaders attended the briefing, titled “Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in a New Era: The Role of Social Work Education.”
The Council on Social Work Education hosted a White House briefing in September called “Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in a New Era: The Role of Social Work Education.”
The briefing’s purpose was to increase awareness of the part social workers and social work education will play as health care reform unfolds.
“The White House briefing was designed to facilitate strategic thinking about the role of social work education in preparing the next generation of practitioners and researchers for the new paradigm in health care delivery and collaborative practice,” said CSWE President Darla Spence Coffey. “In addition, it was a way to raise the profile of social work as valuable partners in achieving the goals of the federal government and the White House.”
NASW President Jeane Anastas; CEO Angelo McClain; Center for Workforce Studies and Social Work Practice Director Tracy Whitaker; and Social Work Policy Institute Director Joan Zlotnik were invited to the briefing and represented NASW.
“Research comparing health outcomes across wealthier nations shows that, unlike health spending, higher rates of social spending are correlated with better population health and longevity,” Anastas said. “It is wonderful that social work, social work education, and the Obama administration share an interest in addressing the social determinants of health and illness.”
About 150 participants from across the U.S. attended, including social work practitioners, social work professors and deans of schools of social work. The briefing had four separate panels of speakers from the White House and key federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Each panel focused on a topic that related to health care and health care reform, including the new expectations of health care, creating a national dialogue on mental health, and the importance of ensuring that everyone has access to health care.
“The briefing reaffirmed that the White House and HHS recognize the value of social work, and that implementation of the Affordable Care Act and addressing health care inequities provide many new opportunities for social work,” McClain said.
Health care enrollment under the ACA began Oct. 1 and ends March 31. Zlotnik said the briefing was held in time for participants to attend and receive information before the enrollment start date.
“The briefing emphasized that social work plays a key role in health care access,” she said. “Participants were empowered to go back home and use the information they received to do their part.”
Gary Bachman, a licensed clinical social worker who attended the briefing, agreed that the timing could not have been better.
“This was a perfect time for this to happen,” he said. “The conference was about the social determinants of health care, and who is in a better position to have insight to this than social workers. The briefing was also, in part, to rally social workers to be on board with the issue of making sure people have access to health care.”