Global Water Scarcity: Why It Matters and What You Can Do

by Logan Keziah

Why It Matters?

save_water-Water, covers almost 3/4ths of our planet, so then why is it so precious and why is everyone so worried about it? Growing up I can clearly remember grownups, like broken record players, saying “turn off the faucet while you brush your teeth”, “take shorter showers, you’re wasting water”, and other similar constant reminders that we needed to save water. I thought that saving water was ridiculous nonsense, because I thought we had SOOO much of it on this planet, so of course everyone has access to plenty of it. But it’s not about access just to water, it’s about  access to fresh water, and most importantly fresh clean water.

The United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP) released the following statistics regarding the actual availability of water resources globally:

  • The total volume of water on Earth is about 1.4 billion km3. The volume of freshwater resources is around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 percent of the total volume.
  • The total usable freshwater supply for ecosystems and humans is about 200 000 km3 of water – less than 1 percent of all freshwater resources.
  • By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.” read more here

Of all the water that’s on this planet, only 2.5 percent is freshwater. Of the 2.5 percent freshwater, only around 1% of the water is available for use by humans and other ecosystems. 97% of the water available for human use is underground, and the rest is in rivers and lakes (Source: UNEP), which doesn’t sound so bad right?

Well, it gets even more complicated. Of the mere 200,000 Km3 of water available to humans, a lot of it is threatened by various forms of pollution: in industrialized nations by hydraulic fracturing and poor agricultural and industrial regulation, and in developing nations by unregulated industrial factories, a lack of public sanitation programs, and lack of education on hygiene, leading to unsafe water conditions for an overwhelming number of individuals. Due to the lack of medical care and education, billions of individuals are at risk in developing countries for contracting a waterborne illness, and for those who do contract something, it is often a death sentence, especially for children and the elderly who have weaker immune systems. Waterborne illnesses kill 1.8 Billion people each year according to the World Health Organization.

Africa, experiences one of the highest levels of water insecurity globally, due to a overwhelming lack of access to freshwater lakes and rivers and the technology to efficiently extract groundwater from beneath the earth’s surface. The average African family (family size averaging at least 5 people) only have access to 5 gallons a water a day, and many times family members, often children, have to walk miles each day to fetch that water.How much is 5 Gallons of water? It must be a pretty decent amount considering that it’s shared usually between 5 or more people, right? Watch this eye opening, award winning, video by Designmatters, that shows what a couple in suburbia’s daily life would look like on only 5 gallons of water a day.

Shocking, is the word that comes to mind. An American family (4 person household) on average uses anywhere between 400 to 600 gallons a day, having access to 100x or more fresh clean water than an African family of 5 or more. The graphs bellow show the breakdown of American daily water usage, and comparative water uses of 30 different counties around the world.
wateruse average daily water use
What Can We Do?

What can WE as social workers do to help? No matter where you live in the world, or what your area of practice is global water scarcity is a major problem, and there are several simple things we can all do to help.

  1. Save water in your own home as much as possible. Not sure where to start check out wateruseitwisely.com’s “100 Ways to Conserve”.
  2. Educate. As social workers we’re not strangers to the role we have in educating clients and the community. Understanding the facts about water scarcity and why it’s important to conserve water, and then sharing those fact with family, friends, coworkers, community members, and even clients, is important. Want some great resources to get you started? Check out the World Health Organizations facts on water scarcity, or World Aid America’s facts on way safe water matters.
  3. Donate. Monetary donations are key to getting safe water to individuals and families around the globe who otherwise would have little or no access. I know social workers don’t exactly have a lot of cash laying around, but the smallest donation can make a huge difference. Check out these great organizations:
  • Volunteer. You don’t have to go to a developing country or region with scarce water resources to volunteer. Organize a fundraiser in your community for an organization that is working to bring clean fresh water to those who need it, or volunteer your time and talents in some other way.
  • Advocate. Water resources in the United States are being threatened by poor environmental policies. Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking), decreased regulation on agriculture and industrial ground waste, are policies that put America’s water supply at risk. Talk to your legislators about introducing bills that protect available water resources, or we may see our resources depleted. For more info on how fracking endangers ground waters go here.
  • It’s often easy to forget how environmental issues affect the physical and mental well being of individuals and families around the world, but it does matter. A lot. the Water Project lists four key ways access to clean fresh water helps vulnerable populations around the world.

    • Education. When students are freed from gathering water, they return to class. With proper and safe latrines, girls stay in school through their teenage years.
    • Health.Safe water, clean hands, healthy bodies. Time lost to sickness is reduced and people can get back to the work of lifting themselves out of poverty.
    • Hunger.Access to water leads to food security. With less crop loss, hunger is reduced. Schools can feed students with gardens, reducing costs.
    • Poverty. Without clean water, the possibility of breaking out of the cycle of poverty is incredibly slim.” Read more about the Water Project and what they do here.

    [vimeo]http://vimeo.com/18937453[/vimeo]

    July is Cancer Awareness Month: Are You Taking Preventive Measures

    cancer-awareness-mammography-campaign-600-95790With each passing month, there comes a special and significant phase of life. July is not only the start of summer, it is also Cancer awareness month around the world. We all know how bitterly this ailment has been spreading its wings of menace across the world. From our brain to skin, Cancer has the ability to affect every major body part with a den of malignant cells. The most looming fact is that there’s nothing that can cure Cancer. All we can do is to take preventive measures to keep it  from taking tenure over our body.

    Since there is no cure, preventive measures are the best way to fight this disease. Say no to tobacco, consume a healthier diet, maintain an active lifestyle, and safeguard yourself under the sunrays. This few measures may help you be able to escape the wicked hands of Cancer. However, there is no certainty on the reasons behind a Cancer diagnosis, and  its occurrence no matter what type of Cancer it is can not be pre-determined who is at risk. This is why it is absolutely necessary to have regular physical exams and screening to allow for early detection.

    Cancer absolutely ruins the natural functioning system running under our skin. The scary part about Cancer is the affected cells never die and continue growing incessantly and in an unruly manner. Your vital body parts are therefore in need of your extra concern and care to block every possible path for this bloodcurdling disease. The places where it can attack commonly are Stomach, Epiglottis, Thyroid, Ovarian, Cervical, Bone, Breast, Anal, Lung, Rectum, Skin, etc.

    Frequent check ups of your body is necessary to make sure that everything is absolutely fine ‘inside’ and ‘out’. Sometimes, we avoid such regular doctor visits and checkups, but this is the best way to be healthy and to be proactive regarding your health. This alarming disease is still out of the knowledge of many people residing in outskirts of town or rural areas. Help us spread the word of Cancer awareness to every corner of the world. As the universal phrase says, “Health is Wealth”!

    Editor’s Note: This entry was written by one of our members and submitted to our Helpers section. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Social Work Helper Magazine.

    Photo Credit:  http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/outdoor/cancer-awareness-mammography-campaign-17577155/

    The Biopsychosocial Perspective to Mental Health and Illness

    As we go through life and the environment changes, our brain and it functions also changes. Likewise, a person’s genetic makeup and the environment they interact with will have a profound effect on their mental health, biological health and their brain functions. In order to truly understand someone’s mental health, we must take into account all of the factors affecting them both positively and negatively in order to get a better picture of their overall health and well-being.

    According to Drs. George Engel and John Romano, the biopsychosocial perspective is more appropriate when analyzing the causes of mental illness. This model introduces the idea that there are biological, psychological, and social determinants to mental health. This idea links the outside world to someone’s biology and psyche.  It also involves our consciousness, sentiments, and behaviors.

    One reason why the biopsychosocial perspective is so useful is because it explains how some people who are seemingly “healthy” can get mental illnesses and why some are more prone to mental illness than others. Those who are mentally healthy most likely exercise, have positive energy and strong social bonds does not exempt them from mental illness. The biopsychosocial perspective gives evidence that although someone can be mentally healthy at some point in their life, they can still experience mental illness if their biopsychosocial balance is disturbed.

    • According to the biopsychosocial model, interactions between people’s genetic makeup (biology), mental health and personality (psychology), and sociocultural environment (social world) contribute to their experience of health or illness.
    • The biological influences on mental health and mental illness are varied, and include genetics, infections, physical trauma, nutrition, hormones, and toxins.
    • The psychological component looks for potential psychological explanations for a health problem, such as lack of self-control, emotional turmoil, or negative thinking.
    • Social and cultural factors are conceptualized as a particular set of stressful events (being laid off, for example) that can differentially impact mental health depending on the individual and his or her social context.
    • The biopsychosocial theory posits that each one of these factors is not sufficient to create health or mental illness, but the interaction between them determines the course of one’s development.
    • Despite its usefulness, there are issues with the biopsychosocial model, including the degree of influence that each factor has, the degree of interaction between factors, and variation across individuals and life spans (Boundless)

    This perspective can give clinical workers many benefits when treating a mentally ill patient. They are now able to apply every aspect of the patient’s life to their illness.  Those with mental illness can now gain a sense of self-awareness. Mental illness sufferers can understand their health as a whole entity with several parts that function together. It also broadens the way we view a mental illness by no longer looking at it as a black or white issue. The biopsychosocial perspective also challenges the stigma on mental illness by enabling people to realize that anyone can suffer from a mental illness because we all have biological, psychological, and social influencers in our lives.

    Listen to Episode 3 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings!

    This episode will cover my thoughts on avoidance and a little introduction to agoraphobia and exposure therapy. We will hear from Phillip about his struggles with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Agoraphobia. This episode will conclude with me sharing how people’s perceptions can change after being exposed to mental illness.

    6 Risk Factors for Suicide

    Recently, three people have died by suicide in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina in less than a year by jumping off the top of a parking garage.  If three people have died just in one small area within Greensboro, how many die annually in North Carolina? The answer is a figure that is historically higher than the rest of the nation which averages of over a thousand suicides per year.

    suicide-preventionNews-Record.com reported on the latest suicide committed by a 35 year old local woman on June 18, 2013:

    This is the third suicide from an eight-story parking garage in downtown in less than a year. On Aug. 4 one man jumped from the Bellemeade Street parking deck. A second man jumped from the same parking deck on Sept. 1. That parking deck is about a block away from the Marriott parking deck. Read More

    When faced with suicides that make the local news or impact a loved one, we often ask ourselves how this could have been prevented.

    Here are six factors that can help identify who is at risk for suicide.

    1. A previous attempt:  It is estimated that for every completed suicide, there are anywhere from 11 to 25 attempts.  Hospitals see at least eight times more patients for self-inflicted injuries than the average number of suicides per year.  In the case of suicide, past behavior can be a predictor for future behavior.

    2. Family:  Those with a family history of suicide are at higher risk.  Not only are genetic factors inherited from family, but maladaptive patterns of coping can be learned.  Some people may feel they are destined for suicide if those in generations past died from suicide.  Those who have experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse in their families are also at risk.

    3. Depression: Not all people who die by suicide are experiencing acute mental illness.  However, having a history of depression or other mental illness can make coping with everyday life difficult and is a risk factor.  Some studies cite that up to 90 percent of those who commit suicide have been diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder.

    1. Substance Abuse: A 2009 study showed that 25 to 40 percent of suicide victims had alcohol in their bodies at the time of death. About 69 percent of suicide deaths occur by prescription drug overdose. The use of drugs and alcohol can cloud judgment, enhance impulsivity and
    2. Sexuality and gender issues: Individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender can be outcasts in society and face stigma and discrimination on a daily basis.  This, along with negative family reactions, conflict with spirituality/religious affiliation, higher rates of violence and substance abuse make this population vulnerable. Suicide among LGBT youth is particularly high, with up to 30-40 percent attempting suicide.

    6. Access to means: An immediate risk factor for suicide is one’s access to the means used to commit suicide.  Are there guns and knives in the home? Is medication being stockpiled? How likely is it that someone could access these things?

    These are just a few risk factors.  Others include being bullied, PTSD/Military involvement, being male, incarceration, living in a rural community, physical illness, lack of treatment, hopelessness, and grief or loss.  As a graduate school professor once told me, “Suicide happens when the world throws a situation at you that you don’t have the resources to cope with besides death.” Any stressful situation may lead to someone considering suicide.

    How to help:

    Be a good listener. Be non-judgmental. Offer hope that things can get better with help. Pay attention to mood and the risk factors listed above.

    Don’t be afraid to ask “Are you thinking about suicide?” This shows you are not afraid of the situation and clears up any gray areas.

    Offer to find local resources and help. Find a licensed mental health professional who can help.

    Call 911 if situation is imminently life-threatening.

    More about how to help a suicidal person here:

    Life After the Diagnosis: Recovery is Possible

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    Those of us with mental illnesses often face this confounding question at some point in our lives:  Is this illness a life sentence? I once believed that there was no hope for me after receiving a mental health diagnosis until I came across the word “recovery”.

    Recovering from a mental illness involves an internal movement in which a person decides to live their life to its full potential. This process also encompasses the ability to use your struggles to your advantage by transforming them into hope. Those who are in recovery amend every aspect of their lives, which includes their health, family, and commitments. Recovery and treatment is not the same thing.

    Treatment of mental illnesses engages professionals who intervene the course of your illness. On the other hand, recovery is a personal journey which enables someone to transform their despair into optimism. One of the first steps of recovery is to accept your illness and live happily with it to the best of your ability. Another important step is to make sure your family and home life is safe and stable. Also, a very vital transformation is to get rid of negative and toxic relationships at home, work, or in your community.

    Hope is the main determinant of one’s recovery. With hope, one can feel some sense of mental empowerment to change their lives. The empowerment stage of recovery also includes social inclusion, self-motivation, and the belief that you can actually have a life past that diagnosis. Hope brings about the courage and will power to make the best out of each day that we are given.

    Recovery also entails remission, which is the absence of symptoms for several months with the continuation of treatment. With remission there is no clear restrictions between health and illness. Similarly to recovery, those in remission from mental illnesses can live a positive healthy life. The one thing that needs to be clarified is, although some in recovery or remission may seem “cured” that is not the case.

    Having a mental illness under control does not indicate that the illness has gone away. Another important thing to note is that recovery is not a straight line. It involves relapses and setbacks. What really matters is how you react once you go through such bad times.

    There is a life after the diagnosis. This mental illness does not have to be a life sentence. The diagnosis of a mental illness produces stigma and social isolation. With recovery you are able to transform the negative outcomes to live a life full of positivity and beauty. Recovery enables people to no longer be defined by their diagnosis; instead it promotes self-definition the diagnosis.

    Listen to Episode 2 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings:

    This week’s episode will focus on my personal recovery from anxiety. We will hear from a teen suffering from social anxiety and depression and its associated stigmas. The episode will conclude with me sharing the positive and negative effects of living with a mental illness.

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    A How To on Health Care for LGBTQ

    The United State’s system of health care continues its progression in providing all-inclusive services since the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. Monday, July 1st, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an official policy announcement declaring same-sex partners be given equal visitation rights at long-term care facilities regardless of their marital status. This new guidance policy applies to all long-term care health facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding to include nursing homes and hospice facilities.

    How does this affect agencies and staff?

    Now that medical facilities are encouraged to be more inclusive of LGBTQ individuals and families, agencies are encouraged to evaluate existing programs and services as well as staff support.

    A useful tool that can be used by agencies is the Health Equality Index (HEI) developed by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GALMA). The HEI measures the effectiveness of services provided to LGBTQ individuals.

    2012 Health Equality Index Leader
    Courtesy Human Rights Campaign

    The HEI tests for the “core four”

    1. Patient Non-Discrimination
    2. Equal Visitation
    3. Employment Non-Discrimination
    4. Training in LGBT Patient-Centered Care

    Responses to these questions are returned to the participating agencies in a comprehensive document for their use in service planning.

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius describes the HEI as “an important tool for making sure LGBT individuals and families are treated with the same respect and care in these situations as anyone else.  It shines a light on what our country’s health institutions are doing to better serve LGBT patients.  And it’s very encouraging to see more institutions being recognized as “Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality.” Read More…

    Participating organizations reap several benefits including free online training for staff at all levels,a customized needs assessment for planning, as well as featured status in the HEI report as Equality Leaders.

    Registration is free and open to all healthcare organizations in the U.S. with ten or more employees, whether inpatient or outpatient, network or individual facility.

    The following are some Suggestions for Medical Staff interacting with LGBTQ Patients:

    • Assumptions: Do not assume the sexual identity or orientation of your patient please ask in a proper manner.
    • Education: Learning about LGBTQ sexuality and sexual practices will allow healthcare providers to better assess patients’ support.
    • Language: Be aware of the language used as well as cultural nuances of the LGBTQ population, including celebrations of the community such as gay pride, symbols that are representative such as rainbow flags and pink triangles and terms like butch, femme, dyke, and queer.
    • Communication: Properly educate patients about the effect of illnesses and medical treatments on sexuality.
    • Compassion: Provide sensitive and compassionate service, if uncomfortable with learning about a patient’s sexuality be honest and let a patient know.
    • Respect: Be respectful of a patient and the information they are sharing, this includes confronting coworkers of inappropriate comments.

    Stand up Against the Stigma of Mental Illness: The New Normal

    Social isolation, discrimination, and labeling are a part of the everyday struggles faced by the mentally ill. 1 in 4 American adults suffer from a mental illness. 1 in 17 people will have a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder. The stigma of mental illness ensures the majority of affected individuals will face negative consequences in recognizing and coping with their mental health needs.

    anit-stigma-campaign-namesErving Goffman defined mental illness as a blemish of character and a way to deviate from social norms. However, many of the definitions of mental illness fail to grasp that there are many other aspects to mental health. The three most influential social factors to mental illness are family stability, the placement of neighborhoods and society’s relationship to mental health problems. Mental illness does not solely arise from one’s environment. There are also biological and genetic predispositions that contribute to one’s mental health. One thing that is certain, as a society, we can change the way mental illness is perceived.

    Social isolation or exclusion has been one of the most detrimental affects of the stigma, which is brought upon by labeling. The labels placed on the mentally ill by society, which the media reinforces, are dangerous, crazy, and inadequate. Due to these labels, those with mental illness get isolated from the rest of society. The practice of socialization then inevitably creates an “us vs. them” mentality, those people, the sane and the insane. Confided by these labels and exclusions, mental illness sufferers also struggle with finding their place in society.

    Stand up against the stigma of mental illness is what society needs to create a new normal. This new normal will accept the importance of mental illness and will recognize treatment as equally important with physical illness. This new normal will place mental and physical health on the same spectrum. The new normal will make talking about mental illness a part of everyday conversation, and it will allow people to no longer be ashamed.

    Hopefully with  the acceptance of the new normal, it will bring about affordable mental health treatment, better counseling centers in high schools and colleges, and a society that is better educated on the issues of mental illness.  With a new normal, those with mental illnesses can finally feel like they are a part of society and live without fear of  isolation, discrimination, or labeling.

    Listen to Episode 1 of my podcast Anxious Ramblings:

    Anxious Ramblings is a biweekly conversation about mental illness. This show will challenge society’s views on the mentally ill and help to fight against the stigma. Anxious Ramblings explores the good, the bad, and the ugly side of living with a mental illness. Here we speak about all the crazy thoughts in your head that you’re afraid to say out loud.

    For this episode of Anxious Ramblings, I introduce my story with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and speak about the stigma regarding mental illnesses. The episode concludes with me sharing responses from people who want to tell the world about their mental illness.

    [audio

    Federal Benefits after DOMA

    On Friday June 28, 2013, a memorandum was issued from the United States Office of Personnel Management(OPM) in response to the repeal of DOMA . This memorandum simply highlights federal employee benefits that are now available to married gay and lesbian couples.

    medium_8612879161These now include changes to:

    • Health insurance(FEHB):
    • Life insurance (FEGLI)
    • Dental and Vision(FEDVIP)
    • Longterm Care Insurance (FLTCIP)
    • Retirement
    • Flexible Spending Accounts

    According to the OPM, employees and annuitants will have 60 days from June 26, 2013 until August 26, 2013, to make immediate changes to their insurance  enrollments.

    Those seeking retirement benefits will have two years from the date of the Supreme Court’s decision to tell the OPM of their marriage which now qualifies for recognition and elect any changes to their retirement benefits based on their recognized marital status.

    View OSP memorandum by Elain Kaplan:

    [gview file=”http://www.govexec.com/media/gbc/docs/pdfs_edit/062813e2.pdf”]

     

    The Evolution and Implementation of Medicare

    Since Medicare was created over 45 years ago, it has continuously evolved to meet the changing needs of society.  This has resulted in a system that strives to be more efficient, but in the process has become somewhat complicated if you are unfamiliar with the program.  The program is currently funded by a portion of payroll taxes, monthly premium deductions from Social Security checks, and Congress.  It is divided into four parts:

    MedicarePart A: Hospital insurance – helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, some home health care and hospice care.

    Part BMedical insurance – helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies that are not covered by hospital insurance

    Part CMedicare Advantage – people with Parts A and B can choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan as offered by private companies and approved by Medicare.  You may have to pay a monthly premium for Medicare Advantage because of the extra benefits it offers.

    Part DPrescription drug coverage – helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment.1

    The Medicare system that is in place today is not the same as it was in 1965.  As additional needs and concerns have become evident, the government has modified the social welfare policy to better fit the needs of the targeted population.  Originally, the program was only created to serve adults 65 and older with health insurance.  In 1972, the policy was expanded to include individuals younger than 65 with long-term disabilities and end-stage renal disease.

    Medicare Part C was not implemented until 1997 under the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) and Part D was not legalized until 2003 under The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act.2  The program also originally paid for the entire costs of services as determined by the individual physician.  As Medicare costs began to grow, Congress decided to change the reimbursement system to provide fixed-rate paybacks for services.

    Another prominent way in which Medicare has changed throughout the years is in regards to its cost to the consumer.  Medicare Part A and B have seen changes in the deductibles and premiums that individuals are responsible for paying.   Since Medicare’s creation, the deductible for Part A has increased from $40/year to $1,184/year in 2013.  The premium for Part B has increased from $3/month to $104.90/month for individuals with a yearly income of less than $85,000 in 2011.3 The rise in Medicare costs sheds some insight into how Medicare has had to evolve as medical costs increase and as the need for health insurance among the elderly and the disabled has increased.

    As Medicare has changed over time, one thing remains constant. The program was established to help all eligible beneficiaries as a universal welfare policy.  An eligible individual can receive benefits regardless of which state they live in because Medicare is a federally operated program and the states are not involved in the program’s administration.4  However, there are some differences in how states approach Medigap services. Medigap, also known as Medicare supplemental insurance, refers to various private supplemental health insurance plans that are designed to assist Medicare beneficiaries with health care costs that are not covered by Medicare.

    Insurance companies can only sell you standardized Medigap policies as they are regulated by federal and state laws.  In all but three states – Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – there are 10 standardized Medicare Supplement plans.  The three states that offer slightly different coverage had their own standardized Medigap plans prior to the enactment of the federal standardized regulations.5  For the most part, however, these three states offer Medigap plans that are very similar to those offered by other states.

    Other social welfare policies, such as Medicaid, can differ dramatically from state to state because the federal government gives the states the freedom to distribute the money as they see fit.  As a federally operated program, Medicare exists to serve beneficiaries universally.  While the program has been expanded to cover more individuals, it has consistently covered individuals equally across state lines.

    1US Social Security Administration. (2013, January 25).Medicare benefits. Retrieved from

    2The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. (2010). Medicare: a timeline of key developments. Retrieved from

    3Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, (2012). 2013 Medicare costs (Product No. 11579). Retrieved from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website:

    4Health Assistance Partnership. (2012). Overview of the medicare program. Retrieved from

    5Rapaport, C. Congressional Research Service, (2012).Medigap: a primer (Report No. R42745). Retrieved from Congressional Research Service website:

    Capability vs Ability

    By Daniel Jacob, MSW

    Change…  It sounds so simple, people use it often on a daily basis as a way to correct, improve outcomes, gain knowledge, etc.  However, I believe the greatest reward associated with positive change, is the ability and capability to move forward.  We are all capable of having positive change in our lives, but often we are not able in making it happen.  Reflect on that statement for a moment.  Having personally and professionally  had several opportunities to help others change for the better, I use this example in the most clear and straightforward manner that I can.

    If you are in a state where your path in life is just a series of roadblocks with no sight of an opening, you often feel stuck, hopeless and helpless.  At this point you may not see change for the better as a way out because you are so frustrated, angry, tired, and all the other feelings associated with a life filled with roadblocks.  Your too physically and mentally drained to even think about taking action, and often many  convince themselves that it is easier to keep on suppressing.
    This is where the work part comes into play.

    You yourself have the answers, you just can’t see them, and instead of moving towards a plan of positive change, you settle for being stuck.  This makes sense as I have mentioned prior it is easier to settle for being stuck.  It is hard, very hard to do the necessary work to get unstuck and move through and forward.  So, when I say that we are all capable of change for the better we are.  We are just not always able.  This is the underlying message in it all.  Capability vs Ability.  If you just look at those two words and there meaning, you hopefully can see the solution to getting through those roadblocks.  You can see that there is a way to change for the better.

    Furthermore, you have to really understand and remember that you must be patient with the process, you must!  While changing for the better is the hardest work that you will ever face, it does not happen quickly and often in the time frame that most desire. This is why we often have setbacks because we become frustrated or nonbelievers to the process when we don’t see it happening as quick as we would like.  Well, ask yourself what option is better?

    To have a life filled with negative outcomes and opportunities fueled by the actions and behavior that are creating such?  Or have a life (still with challenges and roadblocks, life does not provide a challenge/stress free existence) filled with positive outcomes and opportunities influenced by your ability to trust the process, be patient with it, and implement the appropriate skills/tools needed in order to change for the better?

    My hope is that this example can provide you with an understanding that life is a series of learning opportunities that allow YOU to determine the quality of your life.  It is up to you and the choices you make that will move you forward, or keep you back.  I hope these words can provide that opening so that you will be able to start the process of changing for the better, with the understanding that the person writing this is the same person who had to learn this lesson, and will continue to.  Until we meet again may you be well to your day, and the day shall be well to you.

    Top 5 Social Work Resources You Should Know About

    If you like to stay in the know about all things social work, I have the several resources that will help keep you in the know. These five websites will serve as portals into a wealth of  global social work knowledge.  Most importantly, you don’t have to find all this information for yourself because they do it for you. Whether you need information on current events, practice or policy, you definitely need to maintain these sites in your bookmarks.

    Here are the Top 5 social work resources that I recommend:

    1. Social Work.Career– This website is maintained by Blogger Dorlee Michaeli who is an MBA and MSW Clinical Social Worker. Dorlee’s motto is “I’m watching twitter, google+ and the web so you don’t have to…” , and she really does. Each week, there is a “Best in Mental Health Series” where she gathers blog post from various social work blogs on the net and compiles them for you. Dorleem Blog covers an array of topics including technology, career development, social work education and more.

    2. Social Work Blogs– Looking for a Social Work Blog or want to list your social work blog, then look no further. Social Work Blogs is your primary directory for social work blogs on the net. Don’t have time to read every social work blog, they give weekly recommendations on some good reads.

    3. Social Work News-Do you want to know about social work news around the globe or in your country? If so, Social Work News needs to be on your desktop. It keeps me informed daily about issues all over of the world. Without Social Work news, you would have to  search for social work specific news yourself.

    4. Community Care UK-Community Care UK is very informative especially if you are interested in learning more about practices in the United Kingdom to compare and contrast policy, practice, research, and initiatives by the British government.

    5. Trabajo Social- Trabajo Social is a blog out of Spain which provides a portal to other social work resources. They also have a library of podcasts in which I can’t use because it’s in Spanish. However, there is a list of blogs which are very informative with Google Translate.

    If Social Workers are Intrinsic to Humanity, Why Should We Strive to Make the Profession Redundant?

    As social workers, your use of ‘self’ is the most fundamental tool in your kit bag. This is why particularly when our profession faces huge challenges, we must be reflexive.  Globally, we are living through unprecedented times. A failure of the capitalist framework which scaffolds our lives has reduced the resources that we and our service users rely on. Our first instinct is to demand more from the hierarchical structures which govern us, voice our concerns and hope to be heard. We do this because that is the system that we are conditioned to, and it’s the way society works.

    We question the system and critique it for being out of touch. Why do the powers that be choose what aspects of our concerns to highlight and minimise what we consider to be core issues? How can a system intended to empower people and improve lives, leave people feeling decimated?

    These questions can be applied to our personal selves, our profession and on behalf of the individuals and families we support. But to answer them requires time to think about whether the individual answers for our personal self, our profession, and our service users harmonise or create conflict. There are no easy answers. In some cases as an individual and a social worker you may consider that both you and your service users will benefit from you having a reduced caseload to enable you to dedicate more time.

    This is an important issue and the answer is one where you might consider the result is increased harmony which is deserving of more funding. But do all areas of public service require greater provision, more doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers and police? Hey, she forgot to mention social workers! Sadly this omission was deliberate to make the point that an increase in the number of social workers is rarely voiced as a national issue.

    Despite a lack of national prevalence, social workers are crucial to our country’s success.  This is because social workers stand committed to wanting to make a positive difference, to support and empower our service users to live safe and fulfilling lives. However, although social workers can be the human face of a bureaucratic policy, on occasions we also represent an impersonal faceless system.

    Listen or read any criticism of the social work profession by service users and it is underpinned by a sense of dehumanisation. Somehow amidst carefully designed systems and well intentioned policies the interventions of social workers leave some people feeling despair, fear and hatred. This was never the intended outcome of the social work profession, whose ultimate goal is one of redundancy, of not being required by a well functioning society.

    You may think this utopia is unrealistic and will never be achieved. I fully understand that position. It is natural to feel overwhelmed simply trying to survive the daily challenges that our personal and professional lives bring. We are only human, how can we meet the needs of humanity? When in truth the question should be: We are human, how can we not meet the needs of humanity?

    This may feel like a heavy burden for social workers to carry, but I believe it is part of our DNA, an aspect of our self. Our personal lives led us to this profession and professional training supports our knowledge base and skills. We are taught to analyse and reflect on the needs of service users and our decision making processes as individual social workers.  We need to extend that reflexivity to our profession to be honest enough to own our mistakes and apply ourselves to fundamental change. We can only change ourselves not others, so let’s agree what we can do and not focus upon what others prevent us from doing.  We owe it to ourselves and humankind.

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