Tackling inequalities in physical health: A new objective for social work

Eileen McLeod, Paul Bywaters

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


We argue that tackling the impact of social inequality on physical health should become a central objective of social work and intrinsic to the development of anti-oppressive practice. This is on three grounds. First, the suffering embodied in inequality in physical health should be a cause of concern to social workers, as a pervasive social problem. Secondly, awareness of social work's complicity in contributing to such a problem, through its historical role in implementing state policies, needs to inform assessment of social work outcomes. Nevertheless, thirdly, social work - not confined to health care settings - which redresses social disadvantage and tackles it consequences for physical well-being can contribute to greater equity in health. Indicative examples of such practice are provided in relation to health maintenance, living with ill health and terminal illness. Finally, consideration is given to the current wider political context in which social work addressing health inequalities is embedded and to the need for complementary organizational, professional and political initiatives to buttress its development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-565
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


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