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Article

Abortion  

D. Lynn Jackson

Until the 19th century, abortion law in the United States was nonexistent, and abortion was not seen as a moral issue. However, by the turn of the 20th century, abortion was legally defined and controlled in most of the United States. The landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973) marked the legalization of abortion but did not end the controversy that existed. Legislation at both the federal and state levels between 1989 and 2022, added restrictions on abortion, making it difficult for women to exercise their reproductive rights. In June 2022, the Supreme Court, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), overturned Roe v. Wade (1973), which had guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. Social work’s commitment to promoting the human rights of women compels social workers to be aware of and involved in this issue.

Article

Disability  

Dawn Apgar

Characteristics associated with contemporary definitions of disabilities have existed in the human population from earliest recorded history. However, societal views on disability and those who have them have varied greatly over time. Disability has been viewed as a blessing from deity or the deities, a punishment for sin, or a medical condition. Social workers have worked with people with disabilities from the inception of the profession and have critical roles in the prevention and treatment of disabilities. Practice is driven by the promotion of the core values of the profession, including the dignity and worth of all people. Social workers recognize that variability in physical and cognitive abilities should not compromise access to opportunities and human rights. Social and political action focused on people with disabilities aim to promote inclusion, foster self-determination, and fight discrimination. Despite increasing services and policies to promote the well-being of people with disabilities, significant income, employment, housing, and quality of life issues still exist for those with disabilities. Macro social work practice is greatly needed to ensure that laws, organizations, and policies do not marginalize or oppress based on varying physical and/or intellectual abilities. Social work’s focus on policy and community development is well suited for reforming existing structures that prevent people with disabilities from achieving full integration within schools, work settings, and community living. Macro social work methods are needed to ensure that quality supports are provided to those with disabilities, to maximize their well-being and participation in all aspects of society.

Article

Disability: Neurocognitive Disabilities  

Lisa S. Patchner and Kevin L. DeWeaver

The multiplicity of disability definitions can be attributed to the heterogeneity of disability, its multifactoral nature, and its effects across the life span. Of particular concern to the social work profession are those persons with neurocognitive disabilities. Neurocognitive disabilities are ones where a problem with the brain or neural pathways causes a condition (or conditions) that impairs learning or mental/physical functioning or both. Some examples are intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, and savant syndrome. Neurocognitive disabilities are the most difficult to diagnose often times because of their invisibility. Providing services for people with neurocognitive disabilities is very difficult, and people with these disabilities are among the most vulnerable populations in today's society. This entry discusses neurocognitive disabilities and current and future trends in social work disability practice.

Article

Health Disparities and Inequities  

Sandra Wexler and Valire Carr Copeland

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 and inequities—differences in health status and healthcare utilization that are influenced by complex social, structural, economic, and cultural factors. It begins by exploring the “problem” with health disparities—what makes them problematic and for whom they are problematic. Factors contributing to health inequities, commonly referred to as social determinants, are then reviewed. Finally, the article considers early 21st-century policy and programmatic responses as well as future directions, including social workers’ role as macro practitioners.

Article

HIV/AIDS and People of Color  

Michele Rountree and Courtney McElhaney Peebles

Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that race and ethnicity in the United States are population characteristics that correlate with other fundamental determinants of health outcomes. This entry will chronicle the history of the epidemic, report the disparate impact of the disease affecting communities of color, and acknowledge the social determinants of health that contribute to the vulnerability of risk. A call to address the imbalance of health inequities, with a complement of individual-level interventions and new approaches that address the interpersonal, network, community, and societal influences of disease transmission, is discussed.

Article

The Opioid Crisis  

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

Rehabilitation  

David W. Springer and Kathleen A. Casey

Rehabilitation is a complex, multidimensional approach within health care that uses an interdisciplinary model of specialized services. The comprehensive treatment team generally includes medical specialists and therapists who specialize in physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, cognitive therapy, psychology, and recreational therapy. Social workers play a key role in the treatment team, particularly in care coordination, discharge planning, and community reintegration. Trends in comprehensive medical rehabilitation will continue to be significantly influenced by forces within the larger health-care arena. Technological advancements and the social trend toward health and fitness offer great promise for the improvement and expansion of rehabilitation services.

Article

Reproductive Health  

Marjorie R. Sable and Patricia J. Kelly

Reproductive health includes family planning, prenatal care, and the broader scope of primary care. Because a woman's health status at conception is as important as prenatal care, genetic screening and 20th century medical technology, reproductive health includes “the preconceptual and interconceptual periods and the menopause, and finally, not only reproductive tract problems but the wide range of risk factors that influence a woman's health in general.” Quantitative indicators of reproductive outcomes are useful for summarizing progress in reproductive health. Important indicators are discussed and reveal significant racial disparities.

Article

Sex Workers and HIV/AIDS in India  

Sunny Sinha

The risk of HIV infection looms large among male, female, and transgender sex workers in India. Several individual, sociocultural, and structural-environmental factors enhance the risk of HIV infection among sex workers by restricting their ability to engage in safer sexual practices with clients and/or intimate partners. While most HIV prevention programs and research focus on visible groups of women sex workers operating from brothels (Pardasani, 2005) and traditional sex workers, for example, Devadasis (Orchard, 2007); there is a whole subgroup of the sex worker population that remains invisible within HIV prevention programs, such as the male, female, and transgender sex workers operating from non-brothel-based settings. This paper provides an overview of the different types and contexts of sex work prevalent in Indian society, discusses the factors that increase a sex worker’s risk of HIV infection, describes the varied approaches to HIV prevention adopted by the existing HIV prevention programs for sex workers, discusses the limitations of the HIV prevention programs, and concludes with implications for social work practice and education.

Article

Social Capital  

Katrina Balovlenkov

Social capital is a social science concept used within macro social work practice to describe the role of human relationships, connectivity, and networks in the planned change process. Social capital has been used to examine how marginalized populations and resource-limited communities mobilize and act to improve social conditions relying on human relationships, connectivity, and networks. Social capital, particularly as it relates to social support and collective efficacy, is linked to preventing and treating disease and addressing socioeconomic conditions that create community-level barriers to well-being. Cultivating social capital has influenced social movements in the United States to produce positive change, such as efforts to create green spaces, challenge discriminatory laws, expand access to healthy food in food deserts, preserve native lands, and enact healthcare reforms. While the definition and measurement of social capital has evolved over the years, in the broadest sense it informs macro social work by improving our understanding of how collective advocacy built on interconnectedness, reciprocity, and trust in both the quality and quantity of social relationships results in real change.

Article

Suicide and Public Policy  

Janelle Stanley and Sarah Strole

The historical context of suicidal behavior and public policies addressing suicide arose simultaneously within the United States, and both reflect a culture of discrimination and economic disenfranchisement. Systems of oppression including anti-Black racism, restrictive immigration policy, displacement of American Indigenous communities, religious moralism, and the capitalist economic structure perpetuate high-risk categories of suicidality. Suicidal behavior, protective factors, and risk factors, including firearms, are examined in the context of twentieth and early twenty first century public policy. Recommendations for public policy will be discussed with consideration for policies that impact communities disproportionately and social work ethics, such as right to die laws and inconsistent standards of care.

Article

Women: Overview  

Ruth A. Brandwein

This overview article introduces the topic of women, beginning with general demographic information. The section on poverty and inequality, which follows, describes the gender differences and delineates some reasons why women are poor and unequal. Issues of child care, welfare, and education are explored. Interpersonal violence and sexual trafficking are discussed, followed by a discussion of health and mental health issues affecting women, including access to health care. The role of women as well as women social workers in politics is briefly explored. Throughout, attention is paid to intersectionality. The article concludes with a discussion of current trends and challenges, with a brief examination of changes in policies affecting women from the Obama presidency to the end of the Trump administration in 2020, including implications for social justice, as well as implications for social work.