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Social Work’s Grand Challenges and their relevance to health concerns in Detroit

February 9, 2016 | Comment

By Tam Perry, PhD
I am just back from the 2016 Society of Social Work and Research Annual Conference in Washington D.C. At this conference, social work researchers celebrated a 20-year anniversary of the conference and the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare launched 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work.

The Grand Challenges for Social Work represent a dynamic social agenda, focused on improving individual and family well-being, strengthening the social fabric, and helping create a more just society, all of which complement the work of population health:
* Ensure healthy development for all youth
* Close the health gap
* Stop family violence
* Advance long and productive lives
* Eradicate social isolation
* End homelessness
* Create social responses to a changing environment
* Harness technology for social good
* Promote smart decarceration
* Reduce extreme economic inequality
* Build financial capability for all
* Achieve equal opportunity and justice

For more information: http://aaswsw.org/grand-challenges-initiative/12-challenges/

As we think about how these apply to vulnerable populations we serve in Detroit, we realize that we must take seriously measuring progress on these concerns and that researchers must collaborate with community members first and foremost, practitioners and policy makers. We must also make central what can be on the side line-how do we make and sustain difference and how do we sustain real difference?

Other concerns are about avoiding duplication, and avoiding studying problems without following up, that is descriptive studies with implementation of interventions. And how to understand logics that may not be our own.

The key note speaker at this conference was Larry Davis, dean of the School of Social Work at University of Pittsburgh. He spoke on, “Race: America’s Grand Challenge.” And it was emphasized that race is the grandest challenge America faces and that it permeates all 12 of the challenges. And so, in this new year, we ask, where can we talk about health and race disparities? Let’s examine waiting time in Emergency Departments (68 minutes for blacks vs. 50 minutes for Whites). Or 21 minutes for reporting chest pain or 23 more minutes for reporting shortness of breath-see below for more on this topic.

Let’s think about how “ed” and “med” institutions in the city, including Authority Health can work together. And let’s talk about where we can go from here.

Happy New Year.

Tam E. Perry. PhD, is assistant professor at the Wayne State University School of Social Work and member of the Senior Housing Preservation – Detroit coalition.

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