Making the invisible visible: are health social workers addressing the social determinants of health?

Soc Work Health Care. 2013;52(4):311-31. doi: 10.1080/00981389.2013.764379.


This study explored the ways in which health social workers (HSW) address the social determinants of health (SDH) within their social work practice. Social workers (n = 54) employed at major hospitals across Toronto had many years of practice in health care (M = 11 years; SD = 10.32) and indicated that SDH were a top priority in their daily work; with 98% intentionally intervening with at least one and 91% attending to three or more. Health care services were most often addressed (92%), followed by housing (72%), disability (79%), income (72%), and employment security (70%). Few HSW were tackling racism, Aboriginal status, gender, or social exclusion in their daily practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Social Values
  • Social Work / organization & administration*
  • Socioeconomic Factors