In memoriam: Neil Bracht, former director of the School of Social Work

Neil Francis Bracht, professor emeritus and former director of the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, died January 2, 2015, at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 79 years old and had battled renal cancer for five years.

Bracht earned a master’s degree in social work from the University of Chicago and another in public health from the University of Michigan. He was a professor at the University of Washington before coming to the University of Minnesota in 1978 to serve as director of the School of Social Work. After leaving the director’s post in 1983, he remained on the social work faculty until 1998.

His career combined his interests in social work and public health, his son Erik explained in his father’s obituary:

“He saw his purpose clearly: To advance the health agenda of a nation increasingly concerned about the effect of diet, smoking and stress on the well-being of individuals and communities.”

Bracht wrote several books on the topic, including Health Promotion at the Community Level and Social Work in Health Care: A Guide to Professional Practice. He was instrumental in creating a joint master’s degree in social work and public health at the University of Minnesota, and he worked in the Minnesota Heart Health Program in the University’s Department of Epidemiology.

Erik said his father promoted the importance of eating heart-healthy meals long before that was common health policy, and was sought out as a consultant to help communities advance the message of healthier living through diet, exercise and stress management.

Bracht is survived by his wife and three children.