Written by: Sheila Snow-Croft, Public Health Coordinator, National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM), Southeastern/Atlantic Region (SE/A). You can contact Sheila at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Association of Social Workers is celebrating its 60th anniversary during Social Work Month, March, with the official theme of “Social Work Paves the Way for Change.” The theme underscores what social workers have done over the past six decades to bring about positive change in our world, and helps us all remember those who help make things better without much compensation for their efforts. The overall goal is “to educate the public about how social workers and the association have brought about major positive social changes, improved the lives of individuals and families, and will continue to do so in the future.”
Along with an interactive timeline of social work efforts over the last 60 years, the website offers a journalism project, a history poster, testimonial videos, a downloadable template to send to government officials to encourage recognition for the profession, downloadable logos for promotional materials, an array of merchandise bearing those logos, and even a section to spotlight media efforts that positively portray the profession. Social workers are encouraged to produce videos showing the value of NASW, “an opportunity to participate in the anniversary celebration and help build a vision for NASW in its next 60 years.”
This celebration allows us all to examine the crossover and joint missions of social work and public health. “Social work originated and grew up alongside public health in the early 20th century, when social workers partnered with doctors to combat sexually transmitted diseases and other infectious diseases and to improve maternal/child health in settlement houses,” Betty J. Ruth, a Clinical Professor at the Boston University School of Social Work, explains in an article in Social Work Today. The two fields intersect for a “contemporary, integrated, trans-disciplinary approach to preventing, addressing, and solving social health problems,” according to the Public Health Social Work website, and more than a few schools offer a dual degree in both fields. The University of Georgia is one of these schools, and their program overview explains that social work tends to address intervention at an individual (micro) level while public health focuses on the goal of prevention at the population (macro) level. The American Public Health Association (APHA), has a Public Health Social Work Section that “establishes standards for social work in health care settings; contributes to the development of public health social work practice and research; and promotes social work programs in the public health field.”
National Social Work Month is a great opportunity to consider how both the fields of social work and public health have bettered our world, and to recognize that both professions have a social justice component that is necessary for the improved health of all.