Welcome to AASWSW Close the Health Gap Grand Challenge website. We encourage you to learn more about our Grand Challenge Initiative below and join us in our effort for health equity among all disenfranchised people.
Led by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, the Grand Challenges for Social Work is a groundbreaking initiative to champion social progress powered by science. It’s a call to action for all of us to work together to tackle our nation’s toughest social problems.
This site is dedicated to one of the 12 Grand Challenge initiatives–Close the Health Gap. More than 60 million Americans experience devastating one-two punches to their health—they have inadequate access to basic health care while also enduring the effects of discrimination, poverty, and dangerous environments that accelerate higher rates of illness. Innovative and evidence-based social strategies can improve health care and lead to broad gains in the health of our entire society.
Karina L. Walters, University of Washington (co-lead)
Professor and Associate Dean for Research
Karina L. Walters is a William P. and Ruth Gerberding Endowed Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on historical, social and cultural determinants of physical and mental health among American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Michael S. Spencer, University of Washington (co-lead)
Presidential Term Professor; Director, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander & Oceanic Affairs
Mike Spencer is a UW Presidential Term Professor in Social Work and the director of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, and Oceanic Affairs at the University of Washington Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI). His research examines health and wellness among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and is focused on interventions that promote health among Native Hawaiians through indigenous practices and values. Currently, his funded research examines the added benefit of integrating Native Hawaiian healers into primary care in Waimanalo, O’ahu.
Edwina Uehara, University of Washington
Professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work
Edwina (Eddie) Satsuki Uehara joined the University of Washington faculty in 1990 and was named Dean of the School of Social Work in 2006. Dr. Uehara’s research interests lie in the social and cultural constructs around health care, mental health and the ways that Asian Americans and African Americans access services.
Heidi L. Allen, Columbia University
Associate Professor of Social Work
Heidi L. Allen is an assistant professor at the School of Social Work and one of the co-investigators in the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, the first randomized trial to examine the impacts of a health insurance expansion on uninsured adults in the United States. Her research interests include the effects of Medicaid expansion, and strategies to improve the quality of care delivered to low-income enrollees and the uninsured.
Christina Andrews, University of South Carolina
Assistant Professor, College of Social Work
Christina Andrews joined the faculty of the College of Social Work in 2012. Her research interests include the impact of the organization and financing of substance use disorder treatment on service access; gender, racial and ethnic disparities in treatment service access; and adoption of medications to treat opioid use disorder.
Teri Browne, University of South Carolina
Associate Dean for Faculty and Research
Associate Professor, College of Social Work
Associate Professor Teri Browne joined the faculty of the College of Social Work in in 2008, where she is also co-director of the Interprofessional Education for the Health Sciences. Professor Browne’s publications focus on nephrology (kidney diseases), health social work and enhancing interprofessional health education. She recently co-authored scientific journal articles on topics including, improving kidney transplant waitlists and reducing racial disparity, advancing social work education for health impact, and perceptions of long-term care residents candidacy for kidney transplantation.
Audrey Begun, Ohio State University
Dr. Begun serves as co-chair of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Substance Misuse and Addictive Behaviors cluster and on the editorial board for the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions. Begun has worked in helping women address substance-related treatment needs as they reenter the community after release from jail, working with colleagues and community organizations to understand discrepancies between service needs and service engagement among men and women returning to the community following incarceration.
John Clapp, Ohio State University
Dr. John D. Clapp is a professor and associate dean for research and faculty development at The Ohio State University’s College of Social Work. He also serves as director of Ohio State’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery. As a professor, Clapp is known internationally for his research and translational work in the field of alcohol problem prevention.
Peter Maramaldi, Simmons College
Professor, School of Social Work
Hartford Faculty Scholar & National Mentor
Peter Maramaldi, PhD, MPhil, LCSW, MPH is a Professor at the Simmons University School of Social Work with faculty appointments at the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology. Dr. Maramaldi’s expertise is in gerontology, evidence-based health promotion, interprofessional teaming, and integrated healthcare delivery.
Darrell P. Wheeler, Iona College
Provost, Senior VP of Academic Affairs
Dr. Wheeler is an active scholar with interests including the identification and exploration of individual and communal resiliency in HIV prevention and intervention among African American and Black gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. He also the current President of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Social Workers.
Bradley Zebrack, University of Michigan
Associate Professor, University of Michigan School of Social Work
Brad Zebrack’s teaching and research interests are in the area of health, medicine, and quality of life. He is particularly interested in the effects of cancer on the psychosocial growth and development of adolescents and young adults. He currently is a member of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Health Outcomes and Behavioral Research Program, and involved in development of new curriculum on Inter-Professional Education.