How to Maximize Limited Resources through Cross-Sector Partnerships

August 22, 2017|12:01 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

J. Lloyd Michener, MDAddressing the social determinants of health and supporting coordinated and integrated service delivery can lead to reduced healthcare spending and improved health outcomes. In recognition of this potential, new partnerships are rapidly developing between healthcare, community-based organizations, health and human service agencies, and other sectors and groups including those concerned with transportation, housing, food security, and public safety. As momentum grows, public health leaders can help shape the work already happening on the ground and effectively coordinate public and private resources.

ASTHO spoke with J. Lloyd Michener, MD, to learn how to maximize limited state resources through cross-sector partnerships. Michener is professor and chairman of the Duke Department of Community and Family Medicine, and he serves as a leading member of the Integration Forum and principal investigator for the Practical Playbook.

Can you describe the history and mission of the Practical Playbook?

The Practical Playbook (PPB) was developed in response to the 2012 Institute of Medicine report, Primary Care and Public Health: Exploring Integration to Improve Population Health, which was jointly sponsored by CDC and HRSA. The mission of PPB is to advance collaboration among public health, primary care, and others to improve population health. We do this by providing practical implementation tools, guidance, and resources through formats, including our website, a national convening of partners, a textbook, conferences and presentations, technical assistance, and connections built between our partners.

What can public health leaders do to reach out to new partners and build trust?

Leverage existing relationships. First, think of your existing relationships within your community, and reach out to people who can connect you with additional partners and allies. Second, connect or reconnect with clinical partners. If you don't have a strong relationship with a local healthcare provider, try engaging with local chapters of primary care organizations. You can usually find member directories on organizations websites. Finally, contact other groups with whom you may not regularly interact, including housing and tenant associations, banks, and employers. All are increasingly interested in health. 

It’s also important to note that you should reach out to both old and new partners early and begin building those relationship before you need their help. That way, you will already have a foundation of trust with those partners when need does arise. 

Are there any recurring operational needs and challenges that limit cross-sector partnerships?

Data sharing is often a challenge, especially when forming new agreements to share data across organizations. Another common issue is making sure you have the right folks at the table. For example, community benefit staff from a hospital may be available to work with you, but they may not have the authority to contribute to a partnership as much as the hospital CEO would. However, community benefit staff may be able to provide more day-to-day support. It is important to identify which groups, as well as which level leadership within a specific group, need to be in which meeting.

Have you seen any innovative partnerships in the field that particularly excite you or that may hold opportunities for replication?

The BUILD Health Challenge supports bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven partnerships that address community health, and their grantees are doing exciting work! See a few examples on the PPB website (such as Seattle and Cleveland).All are listed on the BUILD website. Some of the most active partnerships supported through this initiative have included housing authorities, legal aid, and tenants associations, as well as local hospitals, medical groups, and foundations. 

How can state and territorial health officials (S/THOs) leverage their role to support broader partnership development?

As the leader of state health departments, S/THOs are in a position to drive change among their employees and the public health systems, as well as drive change through policy and advocacy across the state. As funding tightens, S/THOs have an increasing opportunity to support systems change through use of data, expanded partnerships, and upstream investments to address the social determinants of health.

J. Lloyd Michener, MD, is professor and chairman of the Duke Department of Community and Family Medicine, director of the Duke Center for Community Research, and clinical steering committee for the Clinical Translation Science Awards of the National Institutes of Health, and is a member of the Board of the Association of American Medical Colleges.