Brown Faculty Members Promote Health Social Work in China

Faculty; Social Work

Three Brown School faculty members lectured and taught at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, this summer, and were encouraged by what they found. “We saw that policymakers and government officials were very committed to increasing the role of social work in health care,” said Sarah Gehlert, PhD, E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity.

The Brown team was led by Shenyang Guo, PhD, Frank J. Bruno Distinguished Professor and Assistant Vice Chancellor for International Affairs–Greater China, and also included Patrick J. Fowler, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School. They presented at the Shanghai International Medical Social Work Conference, July 10-13, co-sponsored by Washington University and the Fudan University School of Social Development and Public Policy.

Researchers from Europe, China and other parts of Asia attended as well.

Following the conference, Gehlert taught courses at the Fudan Summer Institute on health social work. The practice applies the principles of social work in health care settings such as hospitals and community clinics to help people deal with illness, and increasingly to prevent disease. Gehlert’s handbook on the subject has been translated into Mandarin.

Health social work is a field that is just now emerging in China.

Guo said starting from scratch has both positives and negatives for the Chinese. They have the flexibility to “do whatever they want,” he said, but need expertise to do it effectively, which is where the Brown School faculty were engaged.

He said the event also served as “a platform to show the viability of the Brown School in China” and strengthen the partnership with Fudan University. This fall, the first cohort of six students from Fudan University are at Brown in a dual-degree program through which they’ll earn a Master of Social Policy degree from the Brown School.

Fowler noted opportunities for cross-cultural learning around strong social policy design. “Our colleagues in China hope to learn from our attempts at building an inclusive society through policies—both successes and mistakes. In turn, we will gain insights in how China implements reforms at scale.”