Center for Social Well-Being and Development Launches New Website

Formative research and practical tools aimed at helping vulnerable communities worldwide achieve better health and social well-being

Media Contact: Kathy Fackelmann,, 202-994-8354

WASHINGTON (November 20, 2014)—Today, the Center for Social Well-Being and Development (CSWD), a chartered center within Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University, announced the launch of its new website at  CSWD works to promote the understanding and use of a social-ecological approach to support positive health and social outcomes to reduce vulnerability worldwide. 

“Vulnerable communities often struggle with multiple, interacting factors that go together to create an environment that makes it hard for individuals and families to thrive,” says Mark Edberg, PhD, director of CSWD at Milken Institute SPH. “We can help organizations and local partners assess the factors that put people at risk and offer practical tools that can help build healthier, resilient communities.  At CSWD, we believe that an applied social-ecological approach offers the best potential for creating sustainable impact.”

Initially chartered in 2012 at Milken Institute SPH as the Center for Social Well-Being in the Latin American-Caribbean Region, the center has been renamed to reflect its capabilities to work not only in the Americas and Caribbean, but also in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Chinese border areas.

The idea of social well-being draws from the World Health Organization’s definition of health:  Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. “Social well-being increases the likelihood of healthy outcomes and behaviors, and the attainment of human rights, good health and socio-economic conditions.  So our work can have sustainable impacts on human rights issues related to health and social development,” Edberg adds. 

CSWD focuses on a wide range of health, education, gender, age, social and family factors, and relies on a social-ecological approach to understanding and addressing global health and development issues. This approach looks at the many factors that affect health and well-being, including social determinants of health that heavily impact opportunities and life chances. “For individuals, including children, to develop properly, they need different kinds of supports, resources and opportunities,” Edberg says. “When such supports are missing, people are more vulnerable to the emergence of conditions such as violence, sexually transmitted infections, low school attendance, social marginalization and chronic diseases. The center first looks at what’s causing a problem and then identifies a solution or a series of interacting solutions that go beyond a quick fix.”

The goal of CSWD is to create resilient social-ecological systems that have the ability to adapt and transform. “But first we must identify and understand the interests and needs of a population that influence its decisions and actions,” says Hina Shaikh, JD, CSWD’s director of program management and research operations. CSWD’s new website not only explains the social-ecological approach to growing healthy communities but also how the center can help global policymakers and practitioners who are grappling with problems that seem intractable unless they are addressed in a holistic fashion.

Using the social-ecological approach and offering expertise such as formative research, theory-based interventions, strategic planning, evaluation research, communication for development, local capacity building, and the development of cross-cultural tools, the center can:

  • Assess a community and identify the complexity and roots of a problem that often has multiple, interacting components.
  • Integrate program planning across many sectors so that political, economic, health and social sectors work together to learn, adapt, and build a community that provides individuals and families with the resources they need to thrive.
  • Develop evidence-based programs that can be used to provide solutions tailored to a specific issue and community.
  • Work with local partners to build the capacity to develop and sustain interventions and solutions that are lasting and durable.
  • Evaluate an intervention to see if it addresses the problem in context.
  • Identify and disseminate the lessons learned from an intervention so that similar solutions can be adapted for use in other places around the world.

To find out more about the Center for Social Well-Being and Development and the services it offers, please contact Hina Shaikh at, follow it on Twitter @cswdgw, and visit the new website at


About Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University:

Established in July 1997 as the School of Public Health and Health Services, Milken Institute School of Public Health is the only school of public health in the nation’s capital. Today, nearly 1,534 students from almost every U.S. state and more than 45 countries pursue undergraduate, graduate and doctoral-level degrees in public health. The school also offers an online Master of Public Health, MPH@GW, and an online Executive Master of Health Administration, MHA@GW, which allow students to pursue their degree from anywhere in the world.