BioScience Trends. 2008;2(4):155-163.

Social work in international health and medical assistance.

Akashi R, Akashi H


Welfare issues such as the poor, children, women, and the handicapped are dealt with in the field of development assistance. Few studies, however, have discussed development assistance from a social work point of view. This study analyzes the social work aspects of development assistance through a review of 60 health projects completed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency between 2000 and 2006. Although the term "social work" is ambiguous, several projects with diverse themes included what could be called social work. Projects conducted three types of activities: that for a target population of social works; that for the general population, which included its target population; and that not for a specific target population. Project interventions included both micro-level interventions and system development. There are several possible reasons why only a few projects included social work: 1) social work has a lower priority in development assistance than other areas such as health do, and 2) there are few relevant specialists who can handle a wide range of social work interventions. Donor agencies are gradually focusing more on social work aspects in their projects. Since social work will likely become a greater necessity in the field of development assistance for developing countries in the near future, donor nations and agencies will need to be prepared more adequately to respond to social work needs.

KEYWORDS: Social work, Social welfare, Development assistance, Developing countries, Health

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