Discussions on how to address high healthcare spending, poor health outcomes, and wide-ranging health disparities have centered on an increasingly important point: none of these issues can be solved by one sector alone. Recognizing the growing body of evidence that the environments in which we work and live are largely responsible for the health of a community, an “all hands on deck” approach is needed to tackle health and health equity. One such approach is cross-sector collaboration, where public health, healthcare, and social services organizations work together with communities. An example of a cross-sector collaboration could include a health department, hospital, and community-based organization working together to address chronic health conditions (e.g. asthma) through preventive housing interventions. In recent years, multiple initiatives have emerged to support cross-sector collaborations, including the Cross-sector Innovation Initiative (CSII).
The Center for Sharing Public Health Services (CSPHS) and PHNCI, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), are co-leading the CSII, a three-year effort to support public health, healthcare, and social services organizations striving to build stronger, sustainable connections to improve population health, wellbeing, and equity for all.
At the start of the initiative, the CSII conducted an environmental scan — including a literature review, key informant interviews, and data analysis — to better understand cross-sector collaborations addressing health across the U.S., including facilitators and barriers; continuums of collaboration; roles within collaborations; outcomes associated with cross-sector collaboration; and areas for future research.
Each cross-sector collaboration differs in focus, partner involvement, and level of collaboration — there’s not a one-size-fits-all model. That said, common factors that encourage or discourage cross-sector collaboration were identified:
Cross-sector collaboration can benefit partner organizations via new skills and efficiencies, increased capacity, and stronger partner relationships. Population-level health improvements, like lower mortality rates, improvements in disease management, and immunization rates, attributed to cross-sector collaboration also were documented in some cases.
Cross-sector collaborations appear to be a promising way to address health issues, but more research is needed. Measuring improvements in population health can be difficult, and documenting population health improvements may take time as collaborations mature.
For more information, check out the full environmental scan.
Building on the findings from the environmental scan, the CSII launched a Call for Proposals (CFP) to support public health collaboration with healthcare and social services. Up to 10 awards of up to $150,000 each will be made for projects lasting up to 24 months. The CFP, and the CSII more broadly, is an effort to create a national environment supportive of cross-sector collaboration.
Those selected via the CFP will not only receive funding to support their collaboration efforts but will also receive technical assistance and participate in a Learning Community designed to facilitate peer exchange and share expertise. The Learning Community will provide a space for shared learning with some of the other “hands” on deck tackling health issues through cross-sector collaboration.
Brief proposals for the CFP are due September 5th at 3PM ET. For more details, view the CFP.