Career Development

Do you want to know what public health social workers do in the “real world?” Well, check out our Public Health Social Work web site. Click on “Impact” and read the stories of MSW/MPH alumni from Boston University.

Professional Education Programs at Boston University

Each year, the Professional Education Programs of Boston University School of Social Work offers dozens of workshops on topics related to public health social work, through our Public Health Social Work Training Institute. To find out more, visit Professional Education Programs.

Scholarly Literature on Public Health Social Work

Do you want to know more about public health social work? Check out these publications:

  • Wyatt Marshall, J, Ruth, BJ, Sisco, S, Cohen, M, Bachman, S (2010). Social work interest in prevention: A content analysis of the professional literature. Social Work, Forthcoming.
  • Ruth, BJ, Sisco, S (2008). Public health social work. In: Mizrahi, T, & Davis, L (Eds). Encyclopedia of Social Work (20th ed). New York: National Association of Social Workers, Oxford University Press.
  • Ruth, BJ, Sisco, S, Wyatt, J, Bethke, C, Bachman, S, Markham Piper, T (2008). Public health and social work: Training dual professionals for the contemporary workplace. Public Health Reports,(2) 123.
  • Ruth, BJ, Wyatt, J, Chiasson, E, Geron, S, Bachman, S (2006).  Social work and public health: Comparing graduates from a dual-degree program. Journal of Social Work Education, 42, (2), 429-439.

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. Public health social workers focus on the promotion of positive health behaviors in the development of lifestyles by individuals, families and groups; enhancement by the environment; and avoidance of risks. They assess the health needs of the target population and determine the association between social factors and the incidence of health problems. They plan and implement intervention strategies based on the five levels of prevention. They emphasize reducing the social stress associated with health problems, and determining the social supports that promote well-being and provide protection against ill health and minimize disability and institutionalization.

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, evaluator, and policy maker. Each function is dependent upon the other in assuring the health and social needs of the total population.

Obtained from: May 2005, Association of State and Territorial Public Health Social Workers, Public Health Social Work Standards and Competencies,

Web Sites

Boston University does not endorse any of the following sites. They are printed here as a reference for your personal study and interest.