A Primer for Multi-Sector Health Partnerships in Rural Areas and Small Cities

Learn how rural communities and small cities can support health and equity through cross-sector collaborations between the community development, finance, public health and healthcare sectors, with this virtual primer from PHI’s Build Healthy Places Network.


Rural hospitals, clinics, and healthcare centers play a central role in rural areas and small cities, providing healthcare, jobs and avenues to economic stability. Community development corporations and community development financial institutions also play a critical role in the support and promotion of rural neighborhood development—bringing in needed capital to invest in the social determinants that impact the health, such as housing, health care, grocery stores and child care centers. This provides rural communities with an opportunity to guide cross-sector collaborations between the community development, finance, public health, and healthcare sectors to improve community health and wellness.

Find resources, tools, case studies and more to support rural communities and small cities in advancing partnerships between the healthcare and community development sectors, in this virtual primer from PHI’s Build Healthy Places Network.

Explore the primer


The primer provides an introduction to the healthcare and community development sectors, and explores how these partnerships can improve community health, wellness and equity in rural areas and small cities. It also includes a mini-tool box of Build Healthy Places Network’s existing resources to help facilitate cross-sector collaboration.

“There is an ‘interconnectedness’ and close-knit ties embedded in the fabric of rural and small city communities that supports community engagement and lends itself to multi-sector solutions that can bring meaningful change in a way that reflects the infrastructure and social network of the communities they are trying to serve.”

Because rural communities and small cities face unique challenges and opportunities in forging cross-sector collaborations to advance health and equity, the primer incorporates resources that reflect these realities in order to allow for locally-generated solutions.

Learn more about the community development, finance, public health, and healthcare sectors, and the opportunities for cross-sector collaboration; and explore a toolbox of resources to support practitioners on the ground—specifically designed for rural communities.

By applying cross-sector solutions to the root causes of health inequities, communities can strive to ensure that recovery incorporates adequate care for all across the country as well as within communities while embedding resilience into systems, approaches, and partnerships for challenges that lay ahead.

The Power of Cross-sector Partnerships: Reducing ER visits and reductions in emergency department costs through coordinated services

In 2016, DevNW, a rural and suburban community development corporation launched a health navigator program in partnership with InterCommunity Health Network Coordinated Care Organization to connect their affordable housing residents to healthcare and social services. The health navigation program increased resident access to healthcare services, early intervention services on evictions, improved communication between housing and social service providers, and focused on upstream solutions to staying healthy in the first place. Over the last four years, the town of Williamette Valley, Oregon has seen a 15% reduction in ER visits and a 19% reduction in emergency department costs per member per month. Their work also prevented 97 evictions.

See the primer

Originally published by Build Healthy Places Network

Work With Us

You change the world. We do the rest. Explore fiscal sponsorship at PHI.

Bring Your Work to PHI

Support Us

Together, we can accelerate our response to public health’s most critical issues.


Find Employment

Begin your career at the Public Health Institute.

See Jobs

Kids in a school playground


Donate to PHI Today to Build a Healthier World for Tomorrow

The last few years have been immensely challenging for communities around the globe—in some cases, setting back public health gains by years or decades. But these last few years have also demonstrated what works: Sustained investments in communities, health and equity, and policy change to support them. Now is the time to strengthen these successes, to ensure that no community falls behind.

Donate to PHI

Continue to