Contributions and Challenges of Public Health Social Work Practice during the Initial 2020 COVID-19 Outbreak in China

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

40 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


  • Longtao He
  • Liping Mu
  • Jason A. Jean
  • Lei Zhang
  • Han Wu
  • Tian Zhou


Original languageEnglish
Article numberbcac077
Journal / PublicationBritish Journal of Social Work
Online published23 Apr 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 23 Apr 2022


Social workers contributed significantly to the promotion of public and community health during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China. Based on a quasi-scoping review of articles on social work practice during that outbreak, this reflective article elucidates how social workers contributed in three chronological stages. In the early stage (late January and February 2020), social workers provided community services offered as part of the governmental structure (moderate information and resource provision); in the middle stage (March 2020), social workers provided services to vulnerable groups alongside supporting the quarantine strategy; and in the late stage (April 2020 onwards), their services were focused on recuperation and recovery after the national lockdown was lifted. In the meanwhile, several issues for public and community health social work as a profession in terms of how it was able to support anti-COVID-19 practices became clear, including a lack of independence and stability, the need for better flexibility and greater ability to act pragmatically and lack of professional agreement. This article aims to enlighten the development of a (re)emerging field—public health and community health social work in China in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Area(s)

  • China, COVID-19, cooperation, legitimacy, practice, public health social work