Collaboration in Public Health

The field of public health challenges its professionals to confront complex health issues, such as improving access to health care; controlling infectious disease; and reducing environmental hazards, violence, substance abuse, and injury. From health protection to health promotion and disease prevention to health treatment, Florida Department of Public Health employees (and related agencies) work together to achieve a common mission: “to protect and promote the health of all residents and visitors in the state through organized state and community efforts, including cooperative agreements with counties.”

“A skill that is most helpful, as a current or future public health employee, involves identifying key partners and individuals related to an issue,” suggests Betsy Wood, Director at the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. The Bureau’s mission is to improve individual and community health by preventing and reducing the impact of chronic diseases and disabling conditions through systems, policy, and environmental changes that make the healthy choice the easy choice.  “It is important to understand how policies are developed in all levels of organizations as well as local, state, and national government,” she says.

Increasing the number of adults who achieve and maintain a healthy weight, increasing screening and early detection of chronic diseases, and decreasing chronic disease morbidity and mortality in the state of Florida — let’s face it, these are not easy tasks. They require coordination and collaboration among many key partners. “Healthy weight, physical activity, nutrition are overarching topics that many local, state, and national public and private programs are attempting to address. With so many groups, organizations, and agencies focusing on these topics, it is a challenge to keep track of all the initiatives across the state,” says Wood.

TIP: Throughout the mentorship process, address the role of partnerships and collaboration in public health in your mentor-mentee meetings. What are the pros and cons of partnering across the private and public sectors? What are “non-traditional partners” and who are the organizations or agencies with limited exposure?

“Core elements of effective partnerships include understanding and honoring the unique contribution of each partner; respecting time commitments by organizing and managing meetings efficiently; and following up in a timely manner,” according to Wood.

Involving the community and collaborating with its members are cornerstones of efforts to improve public health. This sentiment and approach are clearly stated and supported in the Principles of Community Engagement (2nd ed.) report, which was initially developed by the Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). Strategies and programs that encourage the link between clinical and community “assure that community-based programs support the health care provider’s plan of care for people
with or at risk for chronic diseases,” states Woods.

The MidAtlantic Public Health Training Center has an archived webinar entitled “Maintaining Effective Public Health Partnerships.” It might be worth viewing as part of your professional development.

If any OMP participant has questions or thoughts about this post, please type them in the comments sections under this post (online) or email the program coordinator at OMP@health.usf.edu.

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