262378 Mapping the practice of public health social work: Findings from an MSW/MPH program evaluation

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 9:02 AM - 9:17 AM

Betty J. Ruth, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Valerie Tobia, BA, MSW , School of Public Health, Boston University, Boston, MA
Abigail Ross, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Luz Lopez, Phd, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Esther Hill, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Jamie Marshall, MSW, MPH , School of Social Work, Boston University, Boston, MA
Dual-degree programs in public health and social work continue to proliferate. In the last twenty years, the number of programs appears to have doubled, reflecting a growing interest in trans-disciplinary approaches to prevention and intervention in complex social health problems. Each year, an unidentified number of MSW/MPH graduates 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 contemporary public health social work (PHSW) practice and its potential for trans-disciplinary leadership in public health. Yet little is known about the careers of MSW/MPH graduates; as a consequence, PHSW remains largely unmapped as an area of practice.

To better understand MSW/MPH practitioners' experiences and increase understanding of PHSW, a 57-question survey was 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; the final response rate was 65% (n=141). A majority (69.9%) of alumni are employed in public health settings (n=133). Some 52.9% earned more than 60k/year (n=133) and 49.6% (n=139) agreed that they had positions that reflected the “ideal integration” of public health and social work. Findings provide a snapshot of employment and professional experiences of MSW/MPH alumni, including opportunities and obstacles faced, and specific information on the roles and functions of PHSW practitioners within public health. The implications for academic public health, for MSW/MPH programs, and for the public health workforce 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 MSW/MPH-trained public health social work practitioners. 2. Identify implications for the academic institutions that sponsor MSW/MPH programs, including suggestions for program improvement and alumni/practitioner/community support. 3. Discuss the emerging picture of contemporary public health social work practice and consider additional opportunities associated with this increasingly popular career choice within the public health infrastructure.

Keywords: Social Work Roles, Public Health Infrastructure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am Director of the MSW/MPH Program at Boston University and a Governing Councilor for the Social Work Section of APHA. I have conducted previous research on public health social work and I am the Director of the Group for Public Health Social Work Initiatives, an ad hoc group in residence at Boston University with the goal of promoting public health social work education and practice.
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.