Several inter-related contemporary developments have contributed to a markedly changed U.S. environment that will necessitate establishing new research priorities and teaching innovations to prepare and expand the social work workforce for 21st century human service roles. These are: 1) socio-demographic shifts resulting in increased diversity of the U.S. population, 2) increasingly interrelated global and local issues (cf., Dominelli, 2010), and 3) the scale, speed, and dimensions of worldwide technological developments (Moyle, 2010). The Council on Social Work Education, the National Association of Social Workers and other organizations focused on social work as a profession and social work research have recognized that these unprecedented historic shifts in context require urgent retooling of social work professionals to target the needs of the 21st century, including needs specific to health and mental health (Council on Social Work Education, 2014).
To meet changing needs, particularly in health and mental health care settings, where the field of medicine has shifted toward evidence-informed practice, we must establish new research priorities and teaching innovations in social work that prepare and expand the workforce and that document the value of social work professionals and social work interventions in health and mental health care. Social work brings to health and mental health care attention to psychosocial and spiritual needs across the life span. Social work brings its focus on person-environment fit and use of a system’s perspective. These hallmarks of social work preparation should place our professionals in a perfect position to assess and intervene in the social determinants of health care, to serve as supportive bridges between health care settings and the community, and to support and sustain successful, healthy community living in this rapidly shifting environment. Our presence in pre-K-12 education and other host settings should also provide social workers with opportunities to employ prevention-focused research and practice innovations to impact child health and socio-emotional development.
The Commission on Research (COR) is submitting this proposal in keeping with its charge related to social work education. The COR proposes working with social work education leadership and related sibling social work groups in these areas: 1) the development of community-social work professional- partnerships to develop and prioritize new social work education research priorities and to conduct responsible and ethical research related to social work education and health and mental health care; and, 2) identification and dissemination of teaching innovations and educational models to further infuse and integrate science and knowledge in teaching, research, and practice related to health and well-being in social work education. The COR recognizes that a variety of stakeholders are engaged in efforts related to this work. The COR proposes to engage with these parties in meaningful partnerships related to these goals and will specifically involve other CSWE commissions, councils, work groups and task forces, the Leadership Forum, as well as other social work professional organizations committed to excellence in the science of social work in this endeavor.