For Social Work Week we asked our experts about the most pressing issues we face

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Social Work Week 2017 - Real Expertise. Real Life. Real Impact.Social Work Week takes place this week, and this year’s theme is "Real Life. Real Expertise. Real Impact." To celebrate, This Week at Renison sat down with some of our faculty to talk about issues that are the focus of their expertise and how they hope to make an impact on the world through research. We asked each of them: If you could solve one issue that people face, what would it be and how would you do it?

Their answers might surprise and inspire you. Let's meet our experts.
Professor Colleen McMillan, the Interim Director of the School of Social Work, has a long history of working in the health field. Her clinical, teaching and research interests include the genderization of health, photo voice as a methodology in the context of illness, interprofessional education and participatory action research with marginalized populations. Her research and teaching methods are framed by Relational Cultural Theory, which emphasizes the value of connection and reciprocity. 

Professor Kathy Hogarth is an Associate Professor in the School whose research focuses on immigration, ethnicity and diversity, critical race, and women. Before her involvement in academia, Dr. Hogarth was a counsellor at the University of Technology, Jamaica. Since immigrating to Canada in 2002, she has been involved in community based research primarily with marginalized populations in Canada.

Professor Edwin Ng is an Assistant Professor in the School whose research focuses on welfare states and regimes, political economy of population health and health inequalities, critical social science theory, social protection policies, social determinants of health, and research methods.

And here are their answers to our questions:
If you could solve one issue that people face, what would it be and how would you do it?

Professor Colleen McMillan emphasizes the need to understand loneliness as a health issue.

A 2010 report by The Mental Health Foundation cited a link between our individualistic society and a rise in common mental health issues. Feeling lonely results in people withdrawing, which compounds the isolation. Shifting our idea of self care from a 'me' stand to a 'we' and 'us' position is a good first step toward caring for each other while caring for ourselves. Collective self care is a goal that strengthens our social fabric and brings resilience to the many  communities we are members of. 

Professor Kathy Hogarth responded with a poem.

On Fighting the Beast
By Kathy Hogarth
Racism stands as a formidable beast before us. It is not a new image on our horizon
It’s been crouching, growling; sometimes asleep, just beneath the surface of our everyday
Soothed by the game of improvement, covered by blankets of sensitivity, all the while breathing in new life
Engorged by our complacency, tickled by our naivety, inseminating us and breeding new life
There is no neutral ground. There is no safe space – we are either feeding it or fighting it
How do we attack this formidable beast before us?
It first starts with recognizing the beast before us
Dropping our pretenses that it does not exist or maybe it’s not as bad
Those who suffer in the grips of its fangs know the terrible bite
Those who are submerged just below the surface gaze at its ugliness in perpetual motion
How do we attack this formidable beast before us?
We peel back our sensitivity blankets and dismantle our safe spaces recognizing that these blankets and spaces are only for the benefit of those not caught in the grip of the beast
And we bravely march towards the horizon.

Professor Edwin Ng cites the need to narrow health inequalities.

We know that income is an important social determinant of health. Income matters because it shapes overall living conditions, affects psychological functioning, and influences health-related behaviours. What’s interesting is that how income is distributed across the population also influences health. High levels of income inequality affect the health of the poor as well as the affluent. Income inequality harms health by reducing social cohesion, which increases stress, fear, and insecurity for everyone. Of course, there are policy implications. If we all benefit from more income equality, we need to address inadequate incomes at the bottom as well as runaway incomes at the top. Potential policy implications include implementing a living wage ( and reducing income inequalities through progressive taxation (i.e., to fund transfer payments and social safety nets).

More information on Social Work Week 2017