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Public Health Social Work

Public Health Social WorkPublic Health Social Work: Role

The Office of Public Health Social Work (OPHSW) is responsible for the planning, development, administration, management and implementation of social work services within the public health system.  The OPSHW is responsible for setting and assuring standards of practice for the discipline.


  • To promote and protect the public’s health,
  • Strengthen the abilities of individuals, families and communities to resolve or reduce social, emotional, psychological and environmental risk factors,
  • Promote self-sufficiency.

Public health social workers address health from a broad perspective by identifying and implementing strategies and interventions that focus on times of transition from one developmental phase to another. Public health social work uses the epidemiological approach to identifying social problems affecting the health status and social functioning of all population groups, with an emphasis on primary prevention. We focus on the promotion of positive health behaviors in the development of lifestyles by individuals, families and groups; enhancement of the environment; and avoidance of risky behaviors.

regionsEssential Public Health Social Work Competencies:

  • Monitor health status to identify community health problems.
  • Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
  • Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.
  • Mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems.
  • Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts
  • Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
  • Link people to needed personal health services and remove barriers to needed health care.
  • Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce.
  • Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based  health services.
  • Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.

Public health social work offers many opportunites to work with critical issues: violence, depression, elder abuse, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, family dysfunction, teenage pregnancy and special needs children.

Social Workers can also help mobilize communities to address disparities and other related health issues.

Populations served include:

  • children and adolescents,
  • children with special health care needs,
  • elderly people with health care needs,
  • nursing home facilities,
  • women of childbearing age,
  • adults with health risks,
  • pregnant women,
  • infants & toddlers
  • people with infectious diseases
  • chronic disease

Services provided by public health social workers include:

  • assessment,
  • short term counseling, education,
  • advocacy,
  • group work,
  • consultation & community resource linkage
  • service coordination
  • emergency response/behavioral health/crisis intervention to local/state emergencies