A hidden jewel: social work in primary health care practice in Aotearoa New Zealand

Stefanie Döbl, Peter Huggard, Liz Beddoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


INTRODUCTION: The New Zealand (NZ) Ministry of Health's Primary Health Care Strategy (2001) has an overall vision of better health for all and the reduction of health inequalities between different population groups. This goal can be achieved by comprehensive, integrated primary health care (PHC) service delivery. One useful approach is to place social workers within PHC practices. This study aimed to explore the perceptions about, and the experiences gained by, such integrated social workers regarding their contributions towards the PHC vision.

METHODS: This qualitative study focused on three participant groups, namely social workers, PHC professionals and key informants. Overall, 18 one-to-one, semi-structured interviews were undertaken in various locations in NZ. Key themes were identified via a general inductive approach.

FINDINGS: Three key themes emerged from the data: wider factors, organisational factors and social work factors. The last theme encompassed the social workers' professional understanding, knowledge and approaches. The organisational factors (a community needs focus and provision of a supportive work environment) and the wider factors identified (funding and issues experienced by communities) had variable impact on these social work positions.

CONCLUSION: Participants viewed social workers as facilitating appropriate access to and engagement by people with services; enhancing ongoing, coordinated, safe service provision; and contributing to staff development. The potential of the social work profession within PHC practices was well recognised by non-social worker participants. This study provides initial insights into the unique contributions made by social workers towards achieving NZ Ministry of Health's PHC vision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-8
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of primary health care
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Needs Assessment
  • New Zealand
  • Primary Health Care/organization & administration
  • Professional Role
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Work/organization & administration
  • Socioeconomic Factors


Dive into the research topics of 'A hidden jewel: social work in primary health care practice in Aotearoa New Zealand'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this