Social workers' role in tempering inequality in healthcare in hospitals and clinics: a study in Israel

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Abstract

The paper presents an empirical examination of the role social workers play in tempering inequality in medical care. Data were collected in 2011 through face-to-face, semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 60 social workers employed in hospitals and clinics in Israel and selected through purposive sampling. The interviews probed the social workers' perceptions of the scope, causes and manifestations of inequality in health and healthcare and the actions they took to ameliorate it. The interviews were analysed using grounded theory. The findings show that all the social workers were acutely aware of the inequalities in their places of work, regarded reducing the inequalities as a major part of their role and made efforts to do so. They facilitated communication between doctors and patients of low socioeconomic status and advocated for such patients with medical staff and administration, as well as with the country's medical and social welfare bureaucracies. The paper details the means they used and the challenges they faced. The study highlights the important role that social workers play in reducing inequality in healthcare.

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