Working Together to Improve Community Health Efforts

October 7, 2013

By Lily Swartz and Linda Shak

Linda Shak will serve as a presenter for the interactive seminar, “Collaboration Multiplier: Working Across Sectors to Foster Healthy and Safe Communities,” at the Congress of Cities on Thursday, November 14, 2013 in Seattle, Washington.

In the face of devastating rates of chronic disease and stalling local economies, city leaders are recognizing that now more than ever, collaboration is key. Solving today's complex health and social issues is beyond the purview of any one agency, organization, or even discipline. In order to improve health, create a thriving local economy, and stem the rising economic and social costs of chronic diseases, many elected officials are working in close partnership with various city departments and non-governmental groups representing local businesses and community-based organizations to ensure that community residents have access to healthy foods and safe places to be physically active.

To help city leaders tackle these challenges, Prevention Institute developed Collaboration Multiplier, a unique framework for developing a deeper understanding of effective multi-sector collaboration. Based on years of experience working with diverse partners on health and wellness initiatives, Prevention Institute created this tool for stakeholders and decision-makers to better understand and engage in partnerships representing diverse issue areas and sectors, with a focus on advancing health initiatives.

For example, in Denver, Colo., a local coalition working to implement policy and environmental changes that would help to improve access to healthy food and physical activity and also prevent violence used Collaboration Multiplier to delineate the strengths and assets of each partner as well as the outcomes they were interested in achieving.  Although the coalition included diverse partners, such as the city council, the city's public health department, community-based organizations and youth, the group was able to identify overlapping interests and areas where they could work together.

As a result of the collaboration, the community is now benefiting from positive community changes including a large-scale, organic urban farm, a weekly farmers' market, and an Urban Farm Training Program that includes job skills training and placement for residents and youth.

No one understands the importance of collaborative efforts more than city leaders. Successfully moving forward any agenda requires navigating complex relationships and changing landscapes. City leaders must develop common ground with key stakeholders, find shared needs, capitalize on the strengths of partners, and identify actionable next steps to meet big picture goals. Collaboration Multiplier is designed to help city leadership do just that.

Join Prevention Institute at our pre-conference training at NLC's Congress of Cities to learn about how cities can use this tool to foster partnerships that contribute to better health outcomes, improve resident lives and reduce healthcare costs.

Linda Shak is a Program Manager at Prevention Institute, and oversees projects related to healthy eating and active living, sustainable food systems and mental health.