Across the country, there is growing awareness that restraining the increase in health costs and improving the health outcomes will require approaches that address the full array of factors that affect health. Greater attention and resources must be devoted to promoting a safer environment, healthy lifestyles, prevention of illnesses and injuries, and early detection and treatment of health problems, as well as dealing with the underlying determinants of health. Improving access to outpatient and inpatient medical services and the quality of those services, while vitally important, are not enough.
To effectively design, implement, and sustain a comprehensive approach to promoting the overall health of communities, we need meaningful collaboration among healthcare delivery organizations, governmental public health departments, and other community stakeholders. Unfortunately, while there is evidence of some increase in recent years, decades of limited communications, lack of mutual understanding, and incongruent goals have inhibited collaboration among these groups across the country. The University of Kentucky College of Public Health recently conducted a study intended to accelerate change, encourage collaboration, and contribute to building a Culture of Health in America. The purpose of the study is to identify successful partnerships involving hospitals, public health departments, and other stakeholders in improving the health of communities they serve and elevate key lessons learned.
The 12 partnerships in the study have involved hundreds of public and private organizations and thousands of community volunteers from various corners of the country. From New Orleans, Louisiana to New Ulm, Minnesota, these efforts have successfully informed broad cross-sections of their communities around the determinants of health, local issues that need to be addressed, and the long-term value of improving the overall health of their communities. Through engaging community organizations and citizens in their programs and activities, these partnerships are generating collective interest and action, building community spirit and social capital, and helping to build a Culture of Health within the communities they serve.
Formal partnerships involving hospitals and/or health systems, public health departments, and other stakeholders who share a commitment to improving the health of the community they serve have an important social role. These partnerships can serve as effective vehicles for collective action. But this is difficult work with substantial challenges, so our team formulated eleven recommendations for community leaders and policy makers to consider when developing effective and durable partnerships:
We think a paradigm shift is occurring in America: there is growing realization that controlling the increase in health expenditures and improving the health of our nation’s population will require major changes in traditional policies, practices, and organizational models. These partnerships are bold pioneers and, we hope, as harbingers of a new era of innovation and multi-sector collaboration focused on building a robust Culture of Health throughout America.
Have you built effective health partnerships? Share your story in the comments below.
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