242112 Mapping the practice of public health social work: Results from an MSW/MPH alumni survey

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 12:45 PM

Betty J. Ruth, MSW, MPH , Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Jamie Wyatt Marshall, MSW, MPH , Boston University School of Social Work, Boston, MA
Esther Hill, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Laura Ann Taranto, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work & School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Sarah Sisco, MPH, MSSW , Office of Emergency Preparedness and Response (OEPR), New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York, NY
Sara Bachman, PhD , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
The integration of prevention and public health approaches into social work practice is expanding, as evidenced by increased research and scholarly writing on public health social work (PHSW), national conversations among social work leaders, and continued proliferation of MSW/ MPH programs. Each year, an unidentified number of graduates from MSW/MPH programs enter the workplace. Educated in theories, frameworks, skills and practices of public health and social work, these dual practitioners are critically positioned to provide insight into the opportunities and challenges associated with public health social work's potential for trans-disciplinary leadership in community health promotion. To date, there has been little research on the careers of these graduates. As a consequence, contemporary PHSW practice remains “unmapped.”

To better understand PHSW practitioners' experiences and strengthen understanding of current PHSW practice, a 57-question survey of multi-modal questions was developed and administered to alumni of a large, northeastern MSW/MPH program (n=293) in fall, 2010. Seventy-three percent of alumni could be contacted for potential participation, with a final response rate of 65% (n=141). Findings provide a comprehensive view of employment and professional experiences (salaries, educational debt, professional development, leadership); obstacles and opportunities for PHSW practice; and insight into the roles and experiences of PHSW practitioners in the public health infrastructure. These data provide a baseline upon which to build and strengthen support for PHSW, whose practitioners are in pivotal community health leadership positions. Together, the findings offer a snapshot of current PHSW practice; implications for both social work and public health will be discussed.

Learning Areas:
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
1. Analyze current employment experiences, perspectives and career trajectories of public health social work practitioners. 2. Identify actions that public health and social work leaders, schools and employers can take to build,strengthen, and enhance public health social work practice and impact. 3. Discuss established and emerging roles for public health social work practice in promoting the health of communities on all levels.

Keywords: Social Work Roles, Public Health Infrastructure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Director of the MSW/MPH Program at Boston University, and have been studying public health social work for over 20 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.