Our Mission

The Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health (CISWH) is dedicated to expanding the impact of social work in health care and public health in order to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations nationally and globally.

CISWH seeks to improve outcomes, patient experience, and population health; reduce costs; and promote health equity and social justice. The Center promotes social work leadership in health through transdisciplinary, cross-sector collaboration with public health, medicine, health economics, technology, and other relevant disciplines.

The Center accomplishes its mission through outcomes-oriented research, community partnerships, policy development, and by providing technical assistance and educational opportunities.

Areas of Focus

Our current areas of programmatic strength include:

Based at the Boston University School of Social Work, we leverage the expertise of faculty and researchers who focus on social determinants of health and social justice. 

Why a Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health?

With a clear focus on equity, social workers are dedicated to assessing, engaging, and advocating for the most vulnerable populations, as they address the non-medical factors that impact health, known as the “social determinants of health.” These social determinants are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, and include factors such as poverty, housing, education, and discrimination. In order to reduce health inequities and improve population health, strategies to address these social factors must be integrated into health care.

More than half of the estimated 650,000 social workers working in the U.S. are employed in health settings, making them an integral part of the health care ecosystem. These professionals have the necessary training and skills to assist those most likely to experience health inequities based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, and other factors. However, despite social workers’ unique skill set, social justice mission, and commitment to eliminating health disparities, research about their specific contributions to health outcomes and cost containment is lacking. Furthermore, social workers’ roles within health care systems and in local and national policy discussions could be stronger.

To address these challenges—and the opportunity to improve health equity—CISWH acts as a convener of researchers, practitioners, educators, and community and governmental organizations and is committed to developing:

  • Effective and efficient healthcare delivery models that place social workers in leadership positions and integrate social work methods and values
  • Opportunities for social workers to participate in local and national policymaking and advocacy efforts regarding healthcare, public health, and the social determinants of health
  • Innovative prevention and intervention strategies that improve population health
  • Global health partnerships that promote social justice
  • Transdisciplinary and cross-sector collaborations that solve complex health challenges
  • Economic analysis of the role of social work in long-term health outcomes

We work toward these goals by lending our expertise in research, evaluation, technical assistance, training, project implementation, and policy analysis to numerous projects, and by providing free resources and professional development opportunities. 

Learn how you can support our efforts