Bruce S. Jansson


Bruce S. Jansson, Ph.D.
--Margaret W. Driscoll/​Louise M. Clevenger Professor of Social Policy and Social Administration, School of Social Work, University of Southern California

I received degrees from Oberlin College, Harvard University, and the University of Chicago and have spent my academic career at the School of Social Work of the University of Southern California. My scholarly publications have focused upon advancing case advocacy and policy advocacy in social work in the nation, organizations, and the health system from 1978 to the present.

I invented the term “policy practice” in a book titled The Theory and Practice of Social Welfare Policy (Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1984). I developed an intervention framework so that social workers and others could gain skills to reform existing policies. I placed policy practice in its context including political and economic interests, culture, values and ideologies, social conditions, and research. I illustrated policy practice with vignettes and case examples.

I made many changes in this framework in succeeding books, including Social Welfare Policy: from Theory to Practice (1990), Social Welfare Policy: from Theory to Policy Practice (1994), and Becoming an Effective Policy Advocate (1999, 2003, 2008, and 2011). I identify eight tasks that policy practitioners undertake, including deciding what is right and what is wrong, navigating policy and advocacy systems, placing issues on decision makers’ agendas, analyzing problems, writing proposals, enacting policies, implementing policies, and assessing policies. I distinguish between “policy practice” and “policy advocacy,” which I define as policy practice geared toward members of vulnerable populations. I discuss policy practice on global issues, as well as evidence-based policy. I discuss “ballot-based policy practice.” I draw on organizational, political, communication, debate, negotiation, and implementation theory and research. I use real-world examples like New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and homelessness in Los Angeles, including interviews and video clips of policy practitioners in these and other settings.

I have written articles and a book to give health professionals skills to engage in case- and policy advococy for their patients and consumers. I document that millions of patients find their rights to be violated, lack evidence-based care, lack culturally competent care, lack preventive care, lack affordable care, lack care for mental distress, and lack community-based care. This book (Improving Healthcare Through Advocacy: A Guide for the Health and Helping Professions, John Wiley & Sons, January 2011) provides the first detailed step-by-step case-advocacy framework. It identifies 118 specific scenarios where patients often need advocacy with respect to these seven problems in chapters 5 through 11. It analyzes the policy, legal, and regulatory context that provide barriers or opportunities for case advocacy, including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 as amended by Congress. It discusses how health professionals can move from case advocacy to policy advocacy in their health organizations, communities, and public-policy settings in chapters 12 through 14. It discusses how members of the health professions can make the institutions that hire them more supportive of their staff who engage in advocacy.

I have also written historical books that are closely linked to my work on case- and policy advocacy. I spent four years writing a history of the evolution of the American welfare state (The Reluctant Welfare State, Wadsworth, 1988). In succeeding editions in 1993, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2009, and March 2011, I analyzed why the United States evolved its paradoxical welfare state that steadily grew in size over many decades, but that failed to address many social problems, including some problems experienced by 13 vulnerable populations. (These populations include women, persons of color, children, the LGBT population, and persons with mental and physical disabilities.) I embed my policy practice framework in the book to help readers understand how social workers and other persons reformed policies in specific eras, including Jane Addams, Frances Perkins, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bertha Reynolds, Ron Dellums, Cesar Chavez, Whitney Young, and Barbara Mikulski. The 7th edition includes a chapter on the Presidency of Barack Obama.

I spent six years researching a book on American budget priorities from the New Deal through President Clinton because of the importance of resource allocation to American domestic policy (The Sixteen-Trillion-Dollar Mistake: How the U.S. Bungled its National Priorities from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, Columbia University Press, 2001). This book remains the only book to provide this overview. I concluded that the United States had squandered $16 trillion in constant 1992 dollars on corporate subsidies, ill-advised tax policies, military spending, and interest payments on run-ups of the national debt during this period. I discuss how these resources could have used these resources more effectively to address social and economic needs in the United States.

Policy practice has emerged as a recognized intervention in the years since I invented the term. The Council on Social Work Education now requires social work schools to teach policy practice. The Journal of Policy Practice was developed by a group that I founded—the Social Welfare Policy and Policy Practice Group. Columbia University School of Social Work and the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina now include “policy practice” in the titles of their macro programs. I am hopeful that my recent publications will stimulate greater attention to case advocacy in healthcare.

I am currently working on two books. One discusses how social workers and other frontline staff in the health and human services can link case- and policy advocacy in different sectors including mental health, child welfare, corrections, education and civil rights (Cengage, anticipated 2012). The other book analyzes why the United States has not significantly reduced health disparities in the last five decades—and whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will achieve this result in coming decades.

Selected Works

This book provides the first detailed framework for health advocacy by members of the health and helping professions at both case (or patient) and policy levels
A pioneering book on the practice of policy and policy advocacy for professionals and Americans.
This book provides a critical analysis of the evolution of the American welfare state from colonial times to the present, as well as discussing strategies for reforming it.

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