Social Work & Primary Health Care

1. What is Social Work?
Social work is a profession that focuses upon improving the health and social well-being of individuals, families, groups and communities. Social Workers believe in the rights and dignity of all individuals and to the achievement of social justice. Social workers work with people to assess, resolve, prevent or lessen the impact of psych-social, physical and mental health related issues.

This is achieved through,
-Counselling and psycho-therapy
-Community development and community capacity building.
-Developing, promoting, and delivering programs in collaboration with other professions
-Participating in relevant legislative and social processes to improve social and health services
-Helping people obtain basic human needs
-Conducting applied social research
-Educating others on the impact of social and environmental factors.
(Adapted from Social Workers Association Act & CASW Scope of Practice Statement)

2. What is Health?
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Social workers work within this broad based approach to health.

3. What is Primary Health Care?
The World Health Organization adopted the primary health approach as the basis for the effective delivery of health care services.

Primary health care is:
-
A philosophy guiding health policy that is population focused
-A strategy for organizing health services that are integrated and needs based.
-A level of care/intervention which is delivered by a team
-A set of activities which include health promotion, prevention, early intervention, treatment and follow-up.

(The World Health Organization)

The five key principles of primary health care are:
-Public Participation
-Accessibility of services
-Appropriate Technology
-Interdisciplinary Collaboration
-Health Promotion

(The World Health Organization)

4. What is the Role of Social Work in Primary Health Care?
There are many roles for social work in primary health care. These roles are not unique or different from the roles social workers currently assume including the following:

Assessor
Enabler
Facilitator
Mediator
Consultant Leader
Counsellor/Therapist
Planner
Supervisor

Advocate
Advisor 
Organizer
Researcher
Manager
Educator/Teacher
Policy Analyst
Evaluator
Program Developer
Community Developer

Social work is a diverse profession working in many of the health and social sectors included in a primary health care approach. Across all of these sectors, social work has always maintained a strong “person in environment” approach to working with individuals, families, groups and communities. By working within the framework of the determinants of health, social workers make the necessary links between the physical, social, emotional and economic impacts of health.

The social work profession has a history of interdisciplinary collaboration and a commitment to the importance of early intervention, prevention and health promotion. These are all key features of primary health care.

Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers For more information contact the NLASW 177 Hamlyn Road
P.O. Box 5244 St. John’s, NL A1C 5W1
Tel: (709) 753-0200 Fax: (709) 753-0120 Email: [email protected] Website: www.nlasw.ca
This information was developed in the format of a brochure and is used with permission from the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Social Workers (NLASW