Valire Carr Copeland and Sandra Wexler
Despite technological advances and changes in healthcare delivery, some groups in the United States continue to have better health-related outcomes than others. This article discusses health disparities—differences in health status and healthcare utilization that are influenced by complex social structural, economic, and cultural factors. Illustrations are offered of health disparities found among diverse populations in this country. The “problem” with health disparities is then explored. From an ethical standpoint, health disparities can be seen as unjust. From a cost perspective, health disparities exact not just a financial toll that is borne by society, but individual, group, and community consequences, as well. From a human rights vantage, health disparities can further disadvantage people who are already vulnerable and marginalized—health disparities can cost people their lives. Factors contributing to health disparities, commonly referred to as social determinants, are reviewed. Finally, future directions, including social workers’ role as advocates, are considered.
Larry W. Bennett and Oliver J. Williams
Perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) use coercive actions toward intimate or formerly intimate partners, including emotional abuse, stalking, threats, physical violence, or rape. The lifetime prevalence of IPV is 35% for women and 28% for men, with at an estimated economic cost of over ten billion dollars. IPV occurs in all demographic sectors of society, but higher frequencies of IPV perpetration are found among people who are younger and who have lower income and less education. Similar proportions of men and women use IPV, but when the effects of partner abuse are considered, women bear the greatest physical and behavioral health burden. Single-explanation causes for IPV such as substance abuse, patriarchy, and personality disorders are sometimes preferred by practitioners, advocates, and policymakers, but an understanding of IPV perpetration is enhanced when we look through the multiple lenses of culture and society, relationship, and psychological characteristics of the perpetrators.
Joshua Kirven and George Jacinto
Community healing and reconciliation have been a focus of many nations in response to civil war, genocide, and other conflicts. There have been increasing numbers of high-profile murders of African-American youths in the United States over the past 10 years. This article provides an overview of gun violence and its effects on African-American youths. Sanford, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio, experienced the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, and the responses of the cities will be highlighted. The two cities provide potential models by communities to address historical injustices in the aftermath of high-profile fatal black male tragedies.
Retirement is a modest social institution that appeared in most industrialized nations near the start of the 20th century. The aim of retirement was to solve the societal dilemma of an increasingly aged labor force by moving older workers systematically out of their jobs so as to not cause them financial harm (Atchley, 1980, p. 264). Although retirement has been considered benign since its inception, the history of retirement indicates that it is one of the main progenitors of ageism in society today (Atchley, 1982, 1993; Haber & Gratton, 1994; McDonald, 2013; Walker, 1990). Retirement and its accompanying stereotypes have been used as a tool for the management of the size and composition of the labor force contingent on the dictums of current markets in any given historical era. Ever-changing ideologies about older adults that extend from negative to positive ageism have been utilized by business, government, the public, and the media to support whatever justification is required in a particular era, with little thought to the harm perpetrated on older adults. Unfortunately, society has subscribed to these justifications en masse, including older adults themselves. In this article the ageism embedded in retirement is examined to make what is implicit explicit to social work practitioners and policymakers in the field of aging.
Kirk A. Foster and Victoria A. Charles
Social networks are structures composed of relational patterns of interactions among a set of actors. These actors may be individuals, families, groups, or organizations connected through expressed ties that allow information and resources to flow through the network. Considering a social network approach in research and practice shifts the focus from the attributes of actors within the network to the relations between them. In understanding how the relational ties influence issues of concern, we may better understand phenomena and devise targeted interventions effectively and efficiently. In this article we discuss the types of social networks, provide an overview of social network analysis, use social capital to contextualize the effects of networks, and provide implications of social networks for social work research and practice.
Jessica M. Black
Sleep is required for healthy and adaptive neurobehavioral and psychosocial functioning throughout the life course. Sleep is restorative, facilitates memory consolidation, improves immune function, and regulates emotional responses. Sleep deprivation, whether due to sleep disorders or other life conditions and transitions, is a significant risk factor for negative developmental outcomes at all stages in the life course. This article adheres to the biopsychosocial model to review current research describing the benefits of adequate sleep and ways in which insufficient sleep, as determined by developmental needs throughout the life course, can undercut healthy development. Particular attention is paid to social issues of relevance to social workers, with a closing discussion of policy and implications for future work within the field.
Sandra Edmonds Crewe and Julie Guyot-Diangone
This article provides an overview of the phenomenon of labeling and stigma. Research studies are used to illuminate the many ways devalued or discredited identities negatively affect the health and well-being of stigmatized groups and additionally burden the socially and economically marginalized. In addition to conveying an understanding of the social process by which a stigma is developed and the role that culture plays in defining and determining any given stigma, this article offers ways in which social work professionals may counter stigma through education/awareness campaigns and in routine client interactions. Anti-stigma work is presented from social justice and ethical perspectives. Stigma as a social construct is discussed, along with its link to discrimination and prejudice. The article helps to unpack the meaning of stigma, including descriptions of the various forms, levels, and dimensions it may take, affecting all spheres of life, including the social, psychological, spiritual, and physical.
Social workers working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families require an understanding of the disabilities themselves as well as the larger context of disability in society. Individuals with disabilities face particular risks for poverty and poor healthcare, and it is essential for social workers to understand the complex web of social services available. Furthermore, social workers often work not only with the person with a disability but also with their caregiving families.
Rhea Almeida, Diana Melendez, and José Miguel Paez
The process of decolonizing is a precursor to liberatory transformation and the foundation for the creation of liberation-based practices. Decolonizing strategies call for changing the lens and the language and debunking the myth of healing through diagnostic codes; and the rigid compartmentalization of mind-body of individuals, and of individuals with regard to their families, their context, and their healing spaces Decolonizing strategies encompass the multiplicity of personal and public institutional locations that frame identities within historic, colonial, economic, and political life. People in various global localities are unwittingly situated within a range of broad and nuanced descriptors, such as indigenous hosts, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religious preference or a combination of these. These personal economic, social, and political intersections are largely unacknowledged by early-21st-century Western models of psychological practice in social work and allied disciplines. Postmodernism and poststructuralism as epistemological frameworks still reproduce a particular form of coloniality. Alternatively, liberation-based practice locates the complexities of these frameworks within a societal matrix that shapes relationships in the context of power, privilege, and oppression. Accompanied by tools for identifying and decolonizing lived experiences within culture circles, liberation-based practice builds on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment, and accountability.
Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.