Social Work
Section Newsletter
Spring 2006

Chair's Corner



I would like to focus part of this article on the pandemic

flu movement of APHA. The Association is encouraging its member groups to play an active role in the move to protect all Americans from a serious health threa -- pandemic flu.

The APHA Executive Board chose the pandemic flu as a critical issue on which to focus. As public health social workers, our role will be pivotal in focusing on the mental health needs of individuals, families and communities in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak. The social work services skills and additional training geared towards mental health emergency preparedness can be uniquely utilized. At such a time we will provide services according to community cultural needs, psychological first aid, referral to mental health services, population with special needs, etc.

APHA members are encouraged to work through their Sections and Special Interest Groups to add their input to:

The Social Work Section Program Chair, Dr. Julia Hastings, has been very busy over the last few months working on our annual program. Julia shared with me that we had an overwhelming response of abstracts submitted this program year...more than in any program in the past. Thanks to Julia and the reviewers for their selections of the workshops for the Annual Meeting. Some initial information about the Annual Meeting has been added to the newsletter.

Thank you to Membership Chair Reg Hutchinson for making a charge to us all to recruit one new member. Our section is in need of great social workers that want to contribute to public health social work. We can do this!

So join me and recruit a new member. There is more information later in this newsletter about recruitment.

Section Election - VOTE

The 2006 election polls are now open! APHA would like to encourage all members to vote at this time -- it directly affects the future of the Association. The elections will begin May 12, 2006 and will end on June 15, 2006. On May 12 you should have been sent an e-mail notification letting you know that your Section election is open. HIGXYZ51HIGZYX The e-mail subject line read "APHA Voting Information Enclosed." Please note that ballots are tallied by an outside vendor -- to ensure that your vote is confidential.

If you need assistance you can click on the "Help" button on the login page to access the help screen or call (866) 720-4357 to speak with an Election Services Corp. customer service representative. Please note that you must cast your ballot by Thursday, June 15 ,by 11:59 p.m. EDT.

Teaching Social Work in the People's Republic of China

Teaching social work in P.R. China: Tales from the Front line

By Ed Saunders

Living and teaching in the People’s Republic of China this past fall semester was a “life changing” experience for me. For five months—with my spouse Jeanne (also a social work professor)—we taught social work to 80 undergraduate and seven graduate students at Wuhan University in east-central China. Most persons in the U.S. have never heard of Wuhan city, although it has a population of 7.5 million. Wuhan University has 50,000 students; until 2000, it was four separate colleges. Until this fall the Department of Sociology/Social Work (in which we taught) was located in the College of Law: they seceded from Law while we were in residence and became an independent program. “Departmental politics” are everywhere it seems! Our students had studied English language since middle school so they were quite proficient in reading and writing in English which made our job much easier than having to use translators. (Nonetheless, many students used their electronic translators frequently while we lectured to look up some of the more technical vocabulary we used.) Many of our students had good oral skills so they were often the “spokespersons” for classmates with lower oral proficiency. Collectively, Jeanne and I taught four social work courses: three to the undergraduate and grad students (including the first public health social work course taught in mainland China!) and one “advanced practice skill” course to the grad students. We were told by an official of the China Association for Social Work Education that we were the first social work faculty from the U.S. to teach semester-long courses in a mainland Chinese University.

Ed and Jeanne with Professor Xiang Deping, Chair of the Social Work Deparment at Wuhan University

Social work education is still very new in the People’s Republic of China: most of our students had been assigned to this major and few knew what it was. As much as our students were interested in knowing what social workers “do,” they were equally concerned about what jobs they would find after graduation because few “social work” jobs exist outside Beijing and Shanghai. Because social work education is so new, almost all students in social work training programs in China are now taught by former sociology professors. Consequently, students are very knowledgeable about social theories but have few “practice skills.” The lack of field placements for students to “practice” social work is another huge problem that current programs face in training the first cadre of social work students in the country. We visited two neighborhood social service centers in Wuhan that approximate the early settlement houses in the U.S.; neither was staffed by trained social workers.

In a city such as Wuhan—that sees few other Westerners—we were always a curiosity when we traveled by buses around the city and participated in the daily life of locals (going to markets, attending cultural events, swimming at the local pool, etc.). Most of our students had never spoken to a native-English speaker and—given their lack of travel to more Westernized cities in China (especially Shanghai) had never eaten in a western restaurant with a knife and fork. Part of our cultural exchange with our students was demonstrating the use of silverware, although we always surprised them with our adroit use of chop-sticks. We had many similar cultural exchanges during our five months on campus: it was often a mutual learning exchange. We’ve returned with a much better appreciation of the history, politics, culture and language of the Chinese people.

Public Health Social Work class at Wuhan University (in an unheated classroom in late November)
The social work program at Wuhan University started in 2000 and we were teaching the first seven MSW students who had started their social work training (as undergrads) in 2000. In general, our students were very respectful and very diligent in their studies. Chinese students face many more hardships than students in the U.S. and it was humbling to see their achievements, despite the many obstacles they face. Our students warmed to us and shared many of their daily events with us: this represented a considerable departure for them compared to their interactions with their Chinese professors. It was a unique opportunity for all of us: not to be forgotten! When people ask, “Would you go back?” (even considering some of the problems we faced in living and teaching in P.R. China), we always answer “in a heartbeat.”

The two pictures show: 1) Jeanne and me presenting a book on Iowa to the Chair of the Social Work Department at Wuhan U., Professor Xiang Deping; and 2) Students in my public health social work course in our unheated classroom in late November.

Public Health Social Work Conference held at Boston University

Over 200 public health social workers gathered at Boston University on Friday, May 19, 2006, for the conference Public Health Social Work in the 21st Century. The conference was dedicated to Ruth Cowin, co-founder of the MSW/MPH Program at Boston University, and celebrated the 25th anniversary of that program.

Following the Keynote address by Patricia Volland, MSW, MBA (Vice President, New York Academy of Medicine), which focused on the connections between public health and social work and the importance of advocacy, the conference broke into five sections of invited papers. Topics included working in the international arena, community practice, public health social work interventions, integrated training and standards and competencies.

The afternoon sessions focused on the future of public health social work. Betsy Clark, PhD, MSW, MPH, (Executive Director of NASW), gave a snapshot of the social work profession and the fact that we are aging (63 percent are 45 years old or older.) She spoke about the similarities of the public health and social work agendas. Her recommendations for an action agenda as we move forward include: a focused common agenda, "transdisciplinary" research, population focus, co-author publications with other disciplines and beyond social work journals, and to include public health social work as a part of the national education campaigns for both public health and social work.

Further information about the conference can be obtained from Betty Ruth, MSW, MPH, at Boston University School of Social Work,  Proceedings will be posted at  as they become available.

Consortium of MSW/MPH Programs

Eleven representatives of MSW/MPH academic programs met at the Public Health Social Work in the 21st Century conference in Boston on May 19, 2006. These included both existing programs and those under development. Additionally, there were representatives of several state and national organizations concerned with the integrated education of public health social workers. One of the action items that this group developed concerned the importance of communication among the programs. The decision was made to form an informal consortium of the programs. At this early stage, it was suggested that the consortium be under the auspices of the Social Work Section of APHA. In addition to holding a Round Table at the APHA Annual Meeting, a listserv has been started to discuss issues of common concern. Some of the issues raised included integrated curriculum, coordinated field placements, admissions, tuition, education of academic colleagues and advisors. HIGXYZ57HIGZYX We also discussed the Public Health Social Work Standards and Competencies (see article "Public Health Social Work - What are the Issues?" elsewhere in this newsletter.) All programs, particularly those in the planning stages, should become familiar with this document.

If you are interested in becoming a part of the listserv, please contact Bari Cornet at the University of California at Berkeley, School of Social Welfare. (

Public Health Social Work - What are the Issues?

Recent discussions at the conference at Boston University on May 19, 2006, raised a number of issues about the field of public health social work. One of the recuring themes had to do with the definition and standards for public health social work. There was concern expressed that many of the participants were unaware of the "Public Health Social Work Standards and Competencies" that were published in May 2005 and presented at the APHA Annual Meeting in November 2005 in Philadelphia. Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight this work.

The Standards and Competencies grew out of the Beyond Year 2010: Public Health Social Work Practice Project directed by Kathleen Rounds and Dot Bon. In 1998 the project brought together public health social work leaders and stakeholders in a working conference to discuss the future of public health social work. The Standards Work Group was formed at the confenerce and took on the enormous challenge of developing a definition of and practice standards for public health social work.

Many folks have been inolved in this effort. They include Joseph Telfair (Alabama), Lann Thompson (Indiana), Judith LeConte (Washington), Elizabeth Watkins (Washington, D.C.), Ruth Knee (Washington, D.C.), Deborah Schild (Michigan), Rita Webb (Washington, D.C.), Marvin "Reg" Hutchinson (South Carolina), Theora Evans (Tennessee), Loretta Fuddy (Hawaii), Delois Dilworth-Berry (Indiana), Deborah Stokes (Ohio), Kathleen Rounds (North Carolina), Paul Halverson (Georgia), Dot Bon (North Carolina), Amy Smith, Barbara Thomas and Janice Houchins (Ohio). Loretta Fuddy and Deborah Stokes provided primary leadership for this effort with support from the Association of State and Territorial Public Health Social Workers and the MCH PHSW Leadership Training Program at the School of Social Work, University of North Carolina.

Definition of Public Health Social Work - "The major characteristic of public health social work is an epidemiological approach to identifying social problems affecting the health status and social functioning of all population groups, with an emphasis on intervention at the primary prevention level. ......The practice of public health social work is usually conducted within the context of a multi-disciplinary setting where social workers participate with other health and human service professionals in assuring all persons in the target population have access to health care and social services. Public health social work is a blending of roles: provider of direct services, researcher, consultant, administrator, program planner, evaluation and policymaker. Each function is dependent upon the other in assuring the health and social needs of the total population." (from the Introduction)

The professional standards include the use of social epidemiology principles, the use of social planning, community organizational development and social marketing principles, the provision of leadership and advocacy, the use of data collection, research and evaluation, and the assurance of competency of its practice to address the issues of public health through a core body of social work knowledge, philosophy, code of ethics and standards. There is a full presentation of these within the Standards and Competencies.

Core Competencies fall in five domains: Theoretical Base, Metholodological and Analytical Process, Leadership and Communication, Policy and Advocacy, and Values and Ethics. Again, the full presentation of these are in the Standards and Competencies.

This is a VERY brief sketch of the work done in this area. The entire (24 pages) Public Health Social Work Standards and Competencies will be put on the Social Work Section Web site shortly. If you desire a copy before then, contact the Social Work Section of APHA.

Is November 4 - 8, 2006 on your Calendar?

What keeps Public Health Social Workers up at night?

Answer: Making plans to travel to the 134th APHA Annual Meeting!

Mark your calendar:

APHA Theme: "Public Health and Human Rights"

Date: Nov. 4-8, 2006

Where: Boston

* All Social Work Meetings will be held in the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel

Web site:
This year’s program represents exciting innovations in the field from around the country. Be sure to visit one of the many sessions offered! Take a sneak peek at the program below.

Sunday, 11/5: Public Health Social Work: News from the Field

Monday, 11/6: Business Meeting: Public Health Social Work

Monday, 11/6: Structural Inequalities and Poverty: Racism and Innovative Responses to Tragedy

Monday, 11/6: Serving Cultural and Linguistic Minorities in Public Health Social Work

Monday, 11/6: Innovation in Public Health Social Work (Poster Session)

Monday, 11/6: Award Ceremony: Celebrating Social Works’ Contributions to Public Health

Tuesday, 11/7: Public Health Social Work: Planning for 2007

Tuesday, 11/7: Public Health Social Work: Best Practices in Program Administration

Tuesday, 11/7: Child Welfare: Displaced Families, Disabilities, Health, and Foster Care

Tuesday, 11/7: Round Table: MSW/MPH Combined Degree Program Issues for Program Coordinators

Wednesday, 11/8: Public Health Social Work: Mental Health and Human Rights

Wednesday, 11/8: Innovative Public Health Social Work: Aging, Immigration, and Veterans Administration Services

See you in Boston!

Julia Hastings, PhD
Program Planner 2006

Bring a New Member

Before you know it, our Annual Meeting will be upon us. I am looking forward to seeing many of you in Boston. It is a time to learn, share, and have fun!

As membership chair, I would like your assistance. First, I would like you to try and attend this year's meeting. The Social Work Section can only be as strong as its membership. Attendance at the conference and participation in section business meetings is very important.HIGXYZ52HIGZYX

Secondly, I am requesting that each individual member take the responsibility of recruiting one new member for APHA and our Section, and that you encourage this new member to attend the meeting in Boston. The Social Work Section has much to offer. Please accept and meet this challenge. We all have a responsibility to make our Section strong. Please make this an important resolution.
If you have any questions -- or ideas on member recruitment -- please contact me. I look forward to seeing you in Boston.
Reg Hutchinson

Marvin "Reg" Hutchinson, MSW, LISW-AP/CP
State Director of Public Health Social Work
S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control
(803) 898-0812
(803) 898-0557 (FAX)

Register to vote with absentee ballot

This year's election day (November 7, 2006) will happen during the APHA
Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts. Make your voice heard in the ballot box
by registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot before your state deadline!
Click here for more information:

Health Services Research Award

AcademyHealth requests nominations of health services researchers who have made a positive impact on health policy and/or practice. The lead researcher of the winning impact will receive $2,000, and the research will be disseminated widely as part of AcademyHealth's ongoing efforts to promote the field of health services research and communicate its value for health care decision-making. The award will be announced at the 2007 National Health Policy Conference on February 12-13, and the winner will receive complimentary registration, travel and lodging to the conference. Deadline for nominations is July 28, 2006.

Has your research made a difference or do you know research that has?The HRS Impact Award recognizes health services research that has made a positive impact on health policy and/or practice that has been successfully translated into health policy, management, or clinical practice.

Submit your nominations today!

Selection Criteria:

  • Quality of research

  • Effectiveness of research dissemination and translation approach

  • Impact of the research

For more information on the HSR Impact Award, please visit or contact Jennifer Muldoon at (202) 292-6700.

Message from your Editor



It sounds like we have all had a busy spring....and are beginning to gear up for the fall and the APHA Annual Meeting. I hope that everyone has a wonderful summer. Let me know what you are up to.... what you have read... interesting programs in your area.

In this issue we have an account of the time that Ed and Jeanne Saunders spent in the People's Republic of China. (Very interesting. Thanks, Ed, for the article.) I am sure that there are others of you who have had international and/or community experiences that would be of interest to section members. Please think about a short article. HIGXYZ55HIGZYX

We also started a dialogue in this issue about the Public Health Social Work Standards and Competencies. There are a number of issues that are of importance to us in the field. Let's talk about them here.

I have been Editor of the Newsletter now for several years. It is time to pass it on. It is actually quite fun. Fran Atkinson, APHA manager of Section Affairs, provides lots of support and assistance. Wouldn't you like to do it for awhile? Think about it and send me any questions you have, (If I can do it with my near computer illiteracy, so can you.)

Everyone, have a good summer.