Characteristics of Successful Community Partnerships to Promote Physical Activity Among Young People

A young girl in the tunnel of a playground.

Success of community-based projects has been thought to hinge on the strength of partnerships between those involved in design and implementation. However, characteristics of successful partnerships have not been fully described, particularly in the context of community-based physical activity promotion. We sought to identify characteristics of successful partnerships from the perspective of project coordinators involved in a mini-grant program to promote physical activity among young people.

Semistructured qualitative interviews were conducted with county coordinators (n = 19) of 20 North Carolina's "Eat Smart, Move More" Community Grants projects funded during 2010 through 2012. Emergent themes were coded; then, overarching themes in the coded data were identified and grouped with similar codes under thematic headings. On the basis of project coordinators' responses, each partnership was classified as strong, moderate, or weak.

Three overarching themes characterized partnership relationships: continuity (history with partner and willingness to engage in a future partnership), community connectedness, and capacity (interest, enthusiasm, engagement, communication, and clarity of roles and responsibilities). Strong partnerships were those in which project coordinators indicated a positive working history with partners, experienced a high level of engagement from partners, had clearly defined roles and responsibilities of partners, and expressed a clear interest in working with their partners in the future.

In community partnerships aimed at increasing physical activity among young people, the perspectives of project coordinators are vital to identifying the characteristics of strong, moderate, and weak partnerships. These perspectives will be useful for future community program development and will influence potential health outcomes.