June 20th, 2014

$12.5 million gift for new BU center

Anonymous gift for social work and health care

An anonymous $12.5 million gift will create a new BU center devoted to melding social work and public health science to improve health care around the globe.

The Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health will be part of the School of Social Work, but will be located on BU’s Medical Campus and will partner with BU’s Center for Global Health & Development. The center will “engage a wide group of scholars across the health professions around workable and cost-effective models that serve the broad health needs of people in the United States and abroad,” said Gail Steketee, dean of SSW.

We must think differently about health care and about the equity of that care.” —SSW Dean Gail Steketee

“We know from the research data that a focus on medical care alone, no matter how cost-conscious, does not lead to healthier or happier lives for people as a whole,” she said, citing lags in American longevity and in chronic disease prevention compared to other developed nations. “We must think differently about health care and about the equity of that care.”

Preventive medicine requires attention to influences on health, like families and neighborhood circumstances, said Steketee, and “social workers understand the larger picture of people’s lives—what drags down people’s health and what improves it.”

The center is built on the premise that solving today’s global health challenges requires new systems of delivery that use integrated teams of professionals from a wide range of disciplines—social work, public health, nursing, dentistry, occupational health, physical therapy, and medicine—working collaboratively with professionals in economics, engineering, and communications. Two areas for early focus for the center may include community management of the health of children born with HIV/AIDS, and the development of systems for managing physical and emotional disabilities in the U.S. and abroad.

The center’s efforts, said Jean Morrison, University provost, have “the capacity to reframe the importance of the discipline of social work and social workers in the health care delivery system.” The center is expected to be operational this summer.

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