In 2020, the Center for Innovation in Social Work and Health (CISWH) at the Boston
University School of Social Work (BUSSW) began organizing a national Community
Health Work (CHW) and Social Work (SW) work group in collaboration with the Center
for Community Health Alignment at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of
Public Health. The initiative was informed by a literature review conducted at CISWH
and subsequent collaborative analysis of literature review findings involving CHWs and
social workers/CHW allies from across the country. That effort led to a well-received
presentation at the 2020 American Public Health Association annual meeting and
expanded interest in following-up recommendations crafted by the study group.

About two dozen practitioners and policy experts have been meeting regularly as a work
group since January 2021. The work group includes a mix of CHWs and SWs in practice
and academic settings from across the country. The overall goal of the initiative is to
harmonize the CHW-SW relationship in health care, public health, and community-based
settings to advance equity through collaboration, advocacy, and research.

The taskforce is examining and documenting the respective values and scopes of practice
for CHWs and SWs; conducting research into model practices for effective integration of
CHWs and SWs in diverse settings; examining the impacts of hierarchical health care
systems on CHW and SW practice; and exploring opportunities to develop and deliver
training to advance task force goals. We are currently conducting a qualitative research
project that aims to identify best and promising practices from practice settings around
the country that are doing effective work to integrate CHW and SW services. The work
group is supported by a recent MSW graduate of BUSSW working with CISWH, a post-
doctoral research fellow at the Dell Medical School of the University of Texas at Austin,
and a doctoral candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in

Project Team Members

  • Sarah Chang, MSW
  • Research Fellow, Boston University School of Social Work