Heidi Allen Receives SSWR Award for her Work on Health Care Policy

December 18, 2018 @ 9:54 pm

Associate Professor Heidi Allen will receive the Social Policy Researcher Award from the Society for Social Work and Research at its 2019 annual conference, January 16–20, in San Francisco. The award honors social work researchers who have made outstanding contributions to the study of social policy and who have demonstrated attention to vulnerable or disadvantaged populations in policy research or policymaking.

Dr. Allen is being recognized for her outstanding work as a co-investigator of the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, the first randomized study in the United States to evaluate the impact of expanding Medicaid coverage to uninsured adults. With colleagues from the Harvard School of Public Health, MIT, and the National Bureau of Economic Research, she has reported on the study’s findings in several award-winning journal articles. In addition, she has been advising states on Medicaid expansion and suggesting ways to improve the delivery of care to low-income enrollees.

Says Interim Dean Irwin Garfinkel: “Dr. Allen played a key role in designing, implementing, and evaluating the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment. Her research and that of her collaborators based on the experiment is path breaking. The Columbia School of Social Work is fortunate to have such a talented scholar at our school.”

Dr. Allen, who joined the CSSW faculty in 2012, believes in using data to help drive change. Much of her work has focused on exposing some of the persistent myths surrounding the Medicaid program. In 2017 she delivered an influential TEDMED talk called “The cost of being insured in America.” Currently, she is working on a new study with Tal Gross of Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, and Naomi Zewde, a postdoc at the Columbia Population Research Center, assessing the impact of Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansions on housing stability, specifically evictions.

Dr. Allen is the recipient of numerous awards and honors. She was a 2014–2015 American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow in Health & Aging Policy and a recipient of the 2016 Columbia University Tsunoda Senior Fellowship program. Earlier this year, she was named to the prestigious health disparities committee of the National Institutes of Health.

A gifted and popular instructor, Dr. Allen is able to draw on a wide range of social work experience when teaching courses on health policy and advanced policy practice, including working as a medical social worker in emergency room settings in Oregon. In fact, it was this experience, which enabled her to observe stark health care disparities on a daily basis, that inspired her to become a policy researcher, initially at the state level. While in Oregon, she held positions related to setting health policy for the state, including as a member of a work group on metrics appointed by former Governor John Kitzhaber and as a research scientist with Providence’s Center for Outcomes Research and Education, an independent research team based in Portland that focuses on improving the health of underserved populations.

“I’m truly honored to be a recipient of the SSWR Social Policy Researcher Award,” Dr. Allen says, going on to make the following assertion:

I strongly believe that social workers are needed in policy development and evaluation. Social work is a unique discipline; we hold a social justice orientation with a mandate to not just observe societal wrongs, but to right them. This values-forward stance may be our profession’s most defining characteristic and it is a complement to rigorous policy research. I appreciate that the Society for Social Work Research recognizes the value of social policy research and I’m proud of Columbia School of Social Work for the enduring commitment to producing future social policy practitioners and scholars.

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