Seeking Insights From Partnerships that Advance Health

Mar 21, 2016, 12:00 PM, Posted by

A new survey aims to reveal how communities across the nation are using collaboration to safeguard health.

A man and woman shop at a community farmer's market.

The health and well-being of a community is far too complex to be the responsibility of the health care sector alone. New Hampshire’s Greater Monadnock region has figured that out. Their Council for a Healthier Community is working with local organizations, businesses, community leaders, and citizens to make this region the healthiest community in the nation by 2020. As part of that ambitious goal, the coalition is exploring a Living Wage campaign, since income and health are inextricably linked. Healthy Monadnock has enrolled employers in the cause, and is encouraging residents to patronize those companies and organizations who support a living wage.

The Greater Monadnock region is just one example of the growing number of cross sector collaborations emerging across the nation, in which the health care sector is just one player on a larger stage. In these collaborations businesses, government agencies, community groups, and schools work together with traditional health care institutions to build a Culture of Health for all, no matter where they live, work, learn, or play.

ReThink Health, an organization supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation, provides resources to build the capacity of this region and others. Since 2007 it has been working with community leaders across the country to help overcome the barriers to health at a regional level. In 2015 ReThink Health published findings from its first Pulse Check, an annual survey of 133 multisector partnerships in 33 states, most operating at the county or state level. The Pulse Check survey revealed insights, possibly for the first time, into where and when these groups were formed; who participates; the scope of their visions and approaches; key successes and challenges; and how they finance their work.

This year, ReThink Health wants to dive even deeper, and along with RWJF is encouraging grantees, networks, alumni, and friends to complete this year's Pulse Check.

We know that there are countless community partnerships reshaping health across the country. Just among RWJF grantees there are the inspiring efforts of our Culture of Health Prize applicants and winners, the regional health improvements achieved by the Aligning Forces for Quality collaborations, and those lessons applied within the HealthDoers Network. We are seeing incredible strides in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s SCALE communities under 100 Million Healthier Lives. We are watching communities work together to plan and make decisions together by sharing data in sustainable ways under our Data Across Sectors for Health program. We will soon be learning from multisector collaborations working at the intersection of health and community development, in our Invest Health program. And we are learning from innovations in policy, health care delivery, and financing mechanisms that improve outcomes, and rebalance and align investments in health under our Bridging for Health program.

These programs are just the tip of the iceberg—there is much to learn about the ways that multisector partnerships are organized, how they are financed, what needs they have, and how we, and others who share our vision, can best help in their journeys toward building a Culture of Health.

Emmy Ganos

Emmy Ganos, PhD, is a program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation where she focuses on ensuring our economy is less burdened by excessive and unwarranted health care spending. Read her full bio.