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School faculty work to strengthen intervention research, practice in China

School of Social Work faculty and Chinese social work professionals continue to work together to strengthen the developing field of intervention research and social work practice in China. Professor Mimi Chapman, assistant professor Paul Lanier and research associate professor Steve Day recently returned from a trip to Shanghai, where they led a second round of workshops designed to teach social work faculty how to develop their own innovative interventions to improve the well-being of communities in China.

Mark Fraser, Tate Distinguished Professor, and Jack Richman, the School’s recently retired associate dean for global engagement and international programs, initiated and co-taught the first round of the research course last summer. The course focused on teaching the Chinese faculty how to design a treatment manual that addresses a social or health problem in their own communities.

Chapman, Lanier and Day met with the same faculty in December to further discuss research design and measurement and to evaluate the participants’ proposed interventions.
“We discussed how they would actually implement their programs and how they would work with the human subjects around them,” Chapman explained. “And we talked about what data they would collect to understand if they are making a difference.”

Many of the issues and challenges faculty are dealing with in China are similar to the problems facing vulnerable populations in the United States, such as social inclusion, poverty and rural isolation, Lanier said. How to tackle those problems were represented in many of the programs and ideas that the Chinese professors proposed, including: how hospital social workers can promote the healthy development of children in treatment for cancer; how to increase social support and social interaction for individuals who have experienced strokes; how to help children of incarcerated parents think positively about their futures; and how to ensure that elders living alone get the services they need to age in a healthy way.

Over the next few months, UNC faculty are expected to continue working with Chinese faculty on their research projects, including on data analysis. Lanier praised the partnership, which he said has also greatly benefitted the School of Social Work.

“Working with researchers in an emerging social work context like China helps us to refine our approaches and how we teach intervention research,” he said. “While every context is unique, many of the challenges in this work are universal. We get to learn from our colleagues in China about how to expand and improve our approaches.”