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Article

Stacy S. Remke

As a relatively new arena of practice, social work in pediatric palliative care (PPC) is evolving and being shaped by social work practitioners, as well as physician leaders, clinicians from other disciplines, and institutions. PPC practice requires a wide array of social work skills, knowledge, and insights to accomplish the many tasks and address the many issues that can arise when caring for children with life-threatening conditions. Family-centered, team-based care is the standard approach. Knowledge of childhood diseases, family systems, health care delivery, mental health assessment and interventions, child development, and bereavement care is required for best practice. The provision of effective care over time, across sites, and in the context of team-based specialty care requires skilled social work intervention.

Article

Hee Yun Lee, William Hasenbein, and Priscilla Gibson

As the older adult population continues to grow at a rapid rate, with an estimated 2.1 billion older adults in 2050, social welfare researchers are determined to fill the shortage of gerontological social workers and structural lag to best serve the baby boomers who are expected to need different services than previous generations. Mental illness impacts over 20% of older adults in the world and the United States. The major mental health issues in older adults include depression, anxiety, loneliness, and social isolation. Depression is considered one of the most common mental health issues among this population; however, the prevalence could be underestimated due to older adults linking relevant symptoms to other causes, such as old age, instead of as possible depression. Like depression, anxiety symptoms are often mistaken as results of aging. It is also difficult for providers to diagnose anxiety in this population due to anxiety frequently being coupled with other illnesses and the psychological stress that comes with old age. Because the presence of loneliness or social isolation can manifest depression and anxiety symptoms in older adults, it is also difficult to separate these two issues. With the anticipated increase of the older adult population within the next few years, measurement tools have been created to assess depression and anxiety specifically for older adults. In addition to adapting assessment tools, interventions tailored to older adults are essential to ensure treatment coherence, even though medications are the go-to treatment option.

Article

M. Aryana Bryan, Valerie Hruschak, Cory Dennis, Daniel Rosen, and Gerald Cochran

Opioid-related deaths by overdoses quadrupled in the United States from the years 1999 to 2015. This rise in mortality predominately occurred in the wake of historic changes in pain management practices and aggressive marketing of opioid medications such as oxycontin. Prescription opioid misuse and subsequent addiction spilled over to heroin and fentanyl for many. This drug epidemic differed from others in its impact among non-Hispanic whites, leading to drastic changes in how the United States views addiction and chooses to respond. This article offers an overview of opioid use disorder (OUD), its treatment and its relationship with pain. It also discusses special populations affected and provides insight into future directions for research and social work practice surrounding opioid management in the United States. Because of the profession’s emphasis on the person and social environment as well as its focus on vulnerable and oppressed populations, social work plays a critical role in addressing the crisis.

Article

The World Health Organization defines interprofessional collaborative practice (IPCP) as when multiple health workers from different professional backgrounds provide comprehensive health services working with patients/clients, families, caregivers, and communities to deliver quality health care across settings. IPCP has long been considered a best practice model to improve effective health-care delivery; however, implementation of collaborative practice models and evidence to support their efficacy have been relatively slow to develop. IPCP is inextricably linked to interprofessional education and practice (IPEP), which brings together students and practitioners across disciplines and practices, and includes direct care workforce, people/patients/clients, families, and communities to learn with, from, and about each other to prepare them for integrated workplace practice. The article will explore national and global interprofessional collaborative practice initiatives; outline core competencies and evidence for collaborative practice; provide examples of IPCP implementation; and discuss the role social work plays in the development and leadership of collaborative practice.

Article

Heather Larkin, Catherine LaBrenz, Stephen Oby, Beth Gerlach, Eunju Lee, Katharine Briar-Lawson, and Lisa Good

The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study, including long-term health implications, is reviewed, followed by an overview of community approaches to addressing ACEs by building resilience in programs and communities. The restorative integral support (RIS) model embodies social work’s person-in-environment perspective and offers a framework to understand and respond to ACEs and their consequences. Social work’s role in addressing ACEs includes the importance of cross-disciplinary, interprofessional, and community-engaged strategies to enact community and system-wide change. Policy and practice implications to foster a culture of health and well-being are emphasized.

Article

Karen M. Sowers, Catherine N. Dulmus, and Braden K. Linn

In the 2010s, mental health and related issues such as suicide have become major global issues of public health concern. The indirect costs to the global economy of mental illness—encompassing such factors as loss of productivity and the spending on mental health services and other direct costs—amount to approximately $2.5 trillion a year. Global health experts and economists project this amount will increase to approximately $6 trillion by 2030. When gone untreated, mental illnesses account for 13% of the total global burden of disease. By the year 2030 it is expected that depression alone will be the leading cause of the global disease burden. Unfortunately, many persons suffering with mental illnesses do go untreated or receive marginally effective treatments. However, recent advances in technology, evidence-based treatments, and delivery systems of care provide hope for the world’s mentally ill population.

Article

Julianne S. Oktay and Bradley Zebrack

Oncology social work researchers have made (and continue to make) important contributions to the knowledge base that supports the profession. This article discusses the profession of oncology social work, its roots in medical social work in the United States, the development of cancer treatment, and the body of research that informs its art and practice. Oncology social work research is placed in the broader contexts of the social work profession, the field of oncology, and the specific field of oncology social work. Through the decades, the profession of oncology social work has grown, gained stability and legitimacy. Oncology social work itself, along with oncology social work research, have made rapid strides in the 21st century and accelerating in impact and relevance. Oncology social work research is stronger now than ever. Recent developments, such as the addition of a research institute at the annual AOSW conference and initiatives to establish a “practice-based research network” are expanding capacity in the field. Oncology social work researchers bring a unique perspective to their research. Social work’s patient-centered perspective is reflected in research that explores the cancer experience of patients and family members and leads to new interventions based on that experience. Social work’s focus on human development over the life course results in research that reflects a developmental framework or focuses on specific age groups, such as children, adolescents, young adults, or the elderly. Social work’s conceptual model of “Person-in-Environment” is reflected in research on cancer patients in the context of their interpersonal relationships. The values of social justice and cultural competence are reflected in research on health disparities, minority populations, and multicultural perspectives. Finally, the field of oncology social work itself has been the focus of recent research on distress screening and its implementation. In the 21st century, oncology social work research stands in a pivotal position. Although this type of research is now widely recognized as important, it is still a challenge to access the level of support from major funders of cancer research required to establish and reinforce a strong and vibrant knowledge base for the profession.

Article

Valire Carr Copeland and Sandra Wexler

Despite technological advances and changes in healthcare delivery, some groups in the United States continue to have better health-related outcomes than others. This article discusses health disparities—differences in health status and healthcare utilization that are influenced by complex social structural, economic, and cultural factors. Illustrations are offered of health disparities found among diverse populations in this country. The “problem” with health disparities is then explored. From an ethical standpoint, health disparities can be seen as unjust. From a cost perspective, health disparities exact not just a financial toll that is borne by society, but individual, group, and community consequences, as well. From a human rights vantage, health disparities can further disadvantage people who are already vulnerable and marginalized—health disparities can cost people their lives. Factors contributing to health disparities, commonly referred to as social determinants, are reviewed. Finally, future directions, including social workers’ role as advocates, are considered.

Article

Jessica M. Black

Scientific findings from social sciences, neurobiology, endocrinology, and immunology highlight the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity to both mental and physical health. Positive activity, such as engagement with music and exercise, can also contribute to favorable health outcomes. This article reviews scientific evidence of the adaptive benefits of positive emotion and activity throughout the life course, with examples drawn from the fetal environment through late adulthood. Specifically, the text weaves together theory and empirical findings from an interdisciplinary literature to describe how positive emotion and activity help to build important cognitive, social, and physical resources throughout the life course.

Article

Ellen Fink-Samnick

The past two decades have witnessed a surge in the growth of initiatives and funding to weave physical and behavioral health care, particularly with identification of the high costs incurred by their comorbidity. In response, a robust body of evidence now demonstrates the effectiveness of what is referred to as collaborative care. A wide range of models transverse the developmental lifespan, diagnostic categories, plus practice settings (e.g., primary care, specialty medical care, community-based health centers, clinics, and schools). This article will discuss the foundational elements of collaborative care, including the broad sweep of associated definitions and related concepts. Contemporary models will be reviewed along with identified contextual topics for practice. Special focus will be placed on the diverse implications collaborative care poses for the health and behavioral health workforce, especially social workers.