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Swedish social work official presents at the School

On Aug. 22, Dr. Knut Sundell, associate professor in psychology and a senior advisor for social affairs at the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, gave the Fall 2013 Tate Lecture to faculty and students at the UNC School of Social Work. His presentation was entitled, “The Transportability of Empirically-Supported Interventions: The Case of Sweden.”

Sundell, a leading international scholar in implementation science, previously worked 17 years as research director at the city of Stockholm and three years as director of the Institute for Evidence-Based Social Work Practice in Sweden. For more than a decade, he has been involved in promoting and disseminating evidence-supported programs in Europe. His research focuses on child maltreatment and antisocial behaviors among young people, including risk and protective factors for antisocial behaviors and outcome trials of interventions in schools and social work agencies.

During his UNC presentation, he reviewed one of his studies and reflected on issues in the cultural adaptation of programs that we often called “evidence-based.” Many of these programs, though well-tested in the U.S., have failed in replication studies in other countries. Sundell is a leader in thinking about what these failures mean and the processes that we must use in adapting evidence-supported interventions.

Sponsored by the John A. Tate Professorship held by Mark Fraser, the Tate Lecture Series is designed to bring international leaders in social work research to the School.

“Dr. Sundell is forging new ground in the implementation of evidence-based programs,” said Fraser. “He is asking crucial questions for the profession: How do we adapt evidence-based programs for different contexts and populations? Who should do this?”

In 2010, the UNC School of Social Work signed “memorandums of understanding” with schools in Sweden, India and China, leading to opportunities for international research collaboration and faculty and student exchanges.

Sundell’s visit continues a working relationship with the UNC School of Social Work that began a few years ago, which includes projects such as co-writing an article with Mark Fraser and opportunities for Fraser and Mark Testa to present in Sweden. Sundell said he is looking forward to more collaboration with the School in the areas of evidence-based practice, implementation research, and interventions research; especially relating to youth and child maltreatment.

Sundell also expressed how impressed he was with the UNC School of Social Work’s Ph.D. program. He is hoping to establish a social work doctoral program in Sweden, and said he looks to our School as a model.