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Social Policy and Advocacy 2019

World Health Day - Sunday 7 April 2019

World Health Day is coordinated by the World Health Organisation and this year's theme is Universal Health Coverage: everyone, everywhere.

Universal health coverage is WHO’s number one goal. Key to achieving it is ensuring that everyone can obtain the care they need, when they need it, right in the heart of the community.

Progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world.

But millions of people still have no access at all to health care. Millions more are forced to choose between health care and other daily expenses such as food, clothing and even a home.

Watch the short World Health Day video here

To celebrate World Health Day 2019, we're proud to share the profile of Victorian AASW member Rosie Kalogeropoulos who works in the health sector.

Member Profile

Rosie Kalogeropoulos

Senior Social Worker, Angliss Hospital, Eastern Health

Number of Years as a Professional Social Worker: 14

What do you love about being a social worker in the health sector?

I work with many different populations, from vulnerable children, to vulnerable adults, whether that be with family violence or working with the elderly to support them to be discharged home.

I love the variety that comes with the work and being able to be present with that person in their time of crisis. I also love working with families who we get to know through the admission.

It is challenging and rewarding work, you can’t predict what your day will be like.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Lack of community resources to help our populations to maintain their health without a hospital admission. Whether that is seeking support to access something simple such as home help, or access to appropriate long term housing.

Why are social workers critical in the health sector?

We work to support vulnerable children, vulnerable adults and work with them to maintain their safety. We are specialised in the areas of family violence and the process for attending VCAT for those who are unable to safely make decisions regarding their lifestyle and accommodation.

We also work within the multidisciplinary team to support discharge planning. Social workers maintain the dignity and rights of those who may not have the voice to do so.

What does this year’s World Health Day theme #HealthForAll mean to you?

Better access to high quality heath care for all Australians.

Member Profile

Sharon Sutherland

Manager Social Work, Alfred Mental and Addiction Health

Number of Years as a Professional Social Worker? 27 years

What do you love about being a social worker in the health sector?

Social work in health is a profession that brings a unique understanding of individual human experience, contextualising the personal, social, psychological and social/cultural/political systems which have shaped the person’s experience of self and others.

I have always been drawn to engaging with people and their stories which are the narratives of their lives.

The stories are the sum of the interplay between the person and their environments. Stories of love, loss, hope, challenge, coping and adjusting to the circumstance’s life throws their way. In health and mental health, human lives, and families can be changed forever by circumstances that cause trauma, loss, and disengagement from life but also resilience, courage and strength. The bio-psychosocial approach offers a way to understand the person beyond the construct of a medical diagnosis. It personalises medical treatment, respects their stories, which can be pivotal to person-centred care and outcomes.

In promoting quality of life and wellbeing, social work in health has been a profession of profound meaning and personal satisfaction. The systemic and structural issues such as inequity, injustice, empowerment and liberation reflect my personal values. I am aligned with the strengths-based approach and the focus on the internal and external factors contributing to physical and mental wellbeing. I have always been drawn to the academic social sciences discipline’s theories, the commitment to reflective practice and the values which drive the profession. I am grateful that my social work career has allowed clinical, work in health and mental health, leadership, management, teaching, and research. Diversity in the scope of practice has been rewarding and afforded so many opportunities to contribution to promote wellbeing and ease suffering.

In health/mental health, my career has included considerable inter-professional team based collaborative care where additional factors such as organisation structure and governance, professional identity and power differentials have a part to play.

This has added richness to the experience and friendships with professional colleagues and furthered the opportunity to demonstrate the authority social work has in the delivery of person-centred health care.

As an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker, I also enjoy private practice as a Medicare provider of focused psychological strategies in the primary health context.

Why are social workers critical in the health sector?

The bio-psychosocial approach and integrated health is correlated with improved outcomes. Social work offers assessment of the internal and external system factors, a holistic perspective beyond a diagnosis to the personal and relational context . Social workers have the skills and knowledge to assess and intervene focusing on the systemic impact of physical and mental health, and complexities which impact on health and psychological wellbeing. The increasing focus on social work practice-based research is evidencing what we do, and strengthens the authority of social work to sit with confidence within multidisciplinary health care and fill specialist senior health positions in state-wide and speciality services which reflect person centred care.

What does this year’s World Health Day theme mean to you?

Appropriate health care can transform people’s lives, ease suffering and optimise quality of life across multiple domains. I am reminded of the two quotes which have stayed with me in my career. As a University of Melbourne social work student ‘The personal is the political’ – Wendy Weeks, and a presentation in Quebec in 2004 International Social Work in Health and Mental Health ‘Inequity begins in the womb’.

Universal equity and access to healthcare should be able to be assumed. The WHO highlights that for numerous reasons access to health care is not available to much of the world’s population.

On World Health Day I am acutely aware of the enormous personal impact of ill health and the privilege and importance of access to the specialist healthcare. On a personal level, my sister was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer earlier this year. By virtue of where we live in the world, access to specialist multidisciplinary health care can offer my sister and her family optimal treatment, hope and person-centred care to support and ease suffering.

What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

The power differentials in health care and governance structures can elevate one profession over another in decision making so that interprofessional collaboration can be influenced by power dynamics. This is now challenged by the growth of consumer and peer workforce models of care but is still an issue for professional autonomy.

Social work is a practice-based academic profession. The social work professional identity needs to be confident in demonstrating what social work can do. Academic rigour and research are important to evidencing the function and relevance of social work assessment and intervention in health care.

This is vital to social work retaining professional authority to define social work scope of practice so that is not directed by other disciplines or defined by organisational contexts. Competence and confidence in social work practice is crucial to professional authority which is why specialist credentialing, accreditation and registration are important issues for the social work profession.

Good supervision, strategic planning and a strong professional vision can work to address the impact of such challenges which can impede social work’s capacity to influence operational processes, and organisational structures.

Contact the Victorian Branch

Victorian Branch Services Coordinator
(Monday to Friday)

Ph: 03 9320 1000 or 1800 630 124 (toll free alternative)
E: [email protected]

Level 7, 14-20 Blackwood Street
North Melbourne

PO Box 2008
Royal Melbourne Hospital
Parkville Vic 3050

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AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers