Providing Research and Tools Local Health Coalitions Can Use to Measure their Progress in Collaborating for Community Health

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PHI’s Population Health Innovation Lab (PHIL) works to support multisector collaboratives to address community-identified health needs. These collaboratives may be made up of community-based groups, health care organizations, labor groups, nonprofits, housing organizations, and others. Typically, partners enter the collaboration with their own organizational goals—then they work together to align their goals, prioritizing these agreed-upon community-centered goals alongside their individual aims.

How do new multisector collaboratives—or researchers, outside evaluators, and funders—know the best ways to measure progress toward shared goals? What has worked well for other collaboratives? 

In 2021, new research from PHIL’s Division of Research and Network Science aimed to answer these questions and provide multisector collaboratives with tools they can use to assess their progress toward shared long-term goals. Their “Toolbox for Measuring Cross-Sector Alignment” included resources such as validated measures of collaboration and aligning, sample data collection instruments, data analysis code, and supporting resources.

In their research, the PHIL research team evaluated elements that are indicative of progress in community-centered collaborative health efforts, as identified by the Georgia Health Policy Center’s Framework for Aligning Sectors. The Framework identifies key elements that factor into the success of a collaborative effort, and PHIL identified four possible additional elements* that can play key roles in efforts to pursue their community-centered goals. The elements include:

  • Core components (shared purpose, data, governance, and financing) 
  • Adaptive factors (community voices, equity, power dynamics, and trust)
  • Short term outcomes (changes in mindsets, practice, and policy)
  • Long term outcomes (shared progress toward communities’ goals and needs, health equity, and racial equity)
  • *Collective action
  • *Representation
  • *Effectiveness 
  • *Alignment

The study validated a number of specific measures for each of the elements. Having such measures helps multisector collaboratives track their progress toward achieving shared goals.

The research provides perspective on what aligning elements are important to collaboratives in general, and collaboratives can assess the relative importance of the elements to see what is most vital within their specific context. For example, a collaborative that is focused on equity can use the Toolbox to understand what measures relate to equity, which can guide their efforts in gathering the most useful data for their individual context. 

The measures and resources provided are tools that can be used as relevant to each collaborative, depending on their own needs, abilities, and local context. PHIL’s “Toolbox for Measuring Cross-Sector Alignment” outlines ways to approach collecting data and can be used by:

  • Practitioners looking for ways to measure a collaborative’s progress in collaboration and alignment 
  • Researchers to study multisector collaboration and alignment
  • Funders to inform funding priorities and reporting requests for multisector collaboratives
  • Evaluators to assess aligning efforts 

For those looking to better understand how to measure collaboration and aligning efforts or just want to learn more, you can find the Toolbox on the Population Health Innovation Lab website and watch the PHIL team’s web discussion here

This research was conducted by the Population Health Innovation Lab, a program of the Public Health Institute. Funding for this project has been made available through the national Aligning Systems for Health initiative, led by the Georgia Health Policy Center with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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