New Research Shows Collaborative Networks of Organizations are Effective in Addressing Complex Health Issues

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 15, 2016) — Rachel Hogg, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences, is lead author of an article published in Health Affairs, the leading journal of health policy thought and research.

The article, “Insights into Collaborative Networks of Nonprofit, Private, and Public Organizations that Address Complex Health Issues,” was co-authored by Danielle Varda, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs and director of the Center on Network Science, both at the University of Colorado Denver.

The article examines the shift to collaborative efforts to address increasingly complex health issues. These collaborative community networks have formed around many health issues such as chronic disease management and healthy lifestyle. But how effective are these networks? Despite growth in numbers of and funding for cross-sector networks, and literature about them, there are limited data and methods for assessing their effectiveness.

 “Our findings provide evidence that cross-sector collaborations bridging the nonprofit, private, and public sectors in community health work are vibrant and strong across communities in the US, but also highlight an important challenge. Partners working across sectors need to develop a collaborative process in which each partner sees the benefit of participation, thereby increasing motivation to stay engaged and make investments to support network goals.” Hogg said. “As strategy and funding policies continue to emphasize the need for diversity among organizations to address complex health issues, practices to mitigate the challenges of these arrangements are necessary to achieve successful outcomes.”

Hogg and Varda addressed this gap in knowledge by analyzing the characteristics of 260 cross-sector community health networks that collectively consisted of 7,816 organizations during the period 2008 to 2015. They found that nonprofit organizations were more prevalent than private firms or government agencies in these networks, but, despite their prevalence in the sample, nonprofit organizations were not rated as highly as other sectors on value. Traditional types of partners in community health networks such as hospitals, community health centers, and public health agencies were the most trusted and valued by their fellow network members. However, nontraditional partners, such as private employers or universities, reported contributing relatively high numbers of resources to their networks.

Hogg and Varda said that further evidence is needed to inform collaborative management processes and policies as a mechanism for building a culture of health.

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Author: 
Melanie J. Sparks
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