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Public Health Partnerships (Essay Sample)


An essay on public health partnerships: what are they?; their benefits as tools for stretching limited resources; what is their structure?; what are the various types of public health partnerships and an evaluation of their significance so far.


Public Health Partnerships
Population health is improved by investment and other various determinants; this is due to the nature of resources. The resources tend to be limited and scarce. Improvement of public health does not just rely on medical care, or merely just public health but it also depends on the social environment, income jobs, the physical environment, our behavior and even to some extent genetics. There is no single person, not even the government, who holds the sole responsibility for all those determinants. So the involvement of partnerships in public health is more like a multi-sectorial solution. Partnerships play a vital role in reflecting the way that health is produced in a broad way. Partnerships may be required to either; come up with metrics of measuring a population’s health outcome or bring into practice incentives that are financial or non-financial at either a community level or national level in order to stimulate movements towards a population’s health outcome (Fawcett, et al., 2010). This paper shall explain the different types of partnerships that health agencies can have and analyze two separate public health partnerships.
Most populations at risk need public health partnerships; these serve as a form of collective action undertaken to promote health and prevent injury or diseases. A collective action is when organizations agree to coordinate activities in the pursuit of shared objectives. Organizations that are in partnership benefit through sharing of information and expertise human and material resources and intangible resources like trust and visibility. In some cases partnerships allow organizations to combine operations and realize economies of scope and scale in the production of public health services (Mays & Scutchfield, 2010). At the same time it is possible to have coordinated delivery of related programs and services, these results in a larger combined impact on population health. In this way partnerships allow organizations to pursue objectives that may not be possible through independent actions.
The type of partnership that health care givers go into depends partly on the size of the market and the position of the contributing organizations. For organizations that serve large segments of the community go into partnerships because they stand to gain large shares of any public goods that are produced through collective action. On the other hand small organizations stand the chance to achieve economies of scale through partnerships by providing public health activities collaboratively that would be unfeasible or inefficient to produce independently (Shortell, 2010). The main reason for organizations to pursue public health partnerships are; the desire to reach new target populations, expand the quality or quantity of services and/or influence high-priority health issues. In general the reasons are noneconomic. This noneconomic nature tends to attract together organizations that have closely compatible missions. This in turn results in a preponderance of government and nonprofit fit participants in many public health partnerships.
The purpose of partnerships is to accomplish various health functions they may include but not limited to information exchange, planning and policy development and implementation of various programs and policies (Partnerships to improve community health: an interview with Professor David Kindig of MATCH, 2010).
Partnerships are able to focus on information exchange through surveillance, epidemiologic investigation, needs assessment and research translation activities. Some examples of partnerships that have been made in order to offer information exchange include syndrome surveillance systems, sentinel provider networks for influenza and health registries such as those for monitoring cancer, vaccination and communicable diseases (Mays & Scutchfield, 2010). Recently some communities have formed partnerships, they support exchange of electrical health information for clinical decision making as well as public health surveillance and research. The relationships among participants determine the quality of information generated through partnerships. Through policy development and planning partnerships are able to promote coordination and avoid duplication among organizations that would have otherwise worked independently.
In most cases partnerships form as a result of community wide assessment and performance measurement processes that identify unmet needs and opportunities for coordination. This was seen in the National Association of County and City Health Official’s mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership’s program, or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Public Health Performance Standards program (Bailey, 2010). In some instances partnerships also take up the role of advocacy coalitions in developing and promoting policy proposals for common interest.
Since partnerships can be termed as social networks formed among organizations and as such a substantial body of knowledge about social network plays a crucial role in elucidating these collaborations. Network coverage reflects the array of different players that contributes to the amount and type of organizational resources that may be contributed (Shortell, 2010). Network density can be termed as the amount of interconnectedness between organizations. This facilitates their capability of working together. Centrality of network reveals the relative influence of a particular organization within a partnership. This is important when it comes to coordinating and focusing collaborative actions. According to various research that have been carried out these constructs, influence partnership functioning, though their magnitudes and mechanism of effect in public health are greatly unknown (Woulfe et al., 2010; Fawcett, et al., 2010).
In recent years according to research both the breadth of organizations contributing to public health activities and the scope of their participation have been on the rise. In a study of partnerships in US communities that involved at least 100,000 residents it was discovered that significant increases had occurred from 1998 to 2006 in the types of organizations that participate in public health activities as shown below (Bailey, 2010). The figure below shows prevalence of 7 public health partnership configurations between 1998 and 2006 the error bars show 95% confidence intervals. The seven configurations were identified through multivariate cluster analysis, each one distinguished by network breadth, centrality and density. Density represents the amount of interconnectedness between organizations; while centrality represents the relative influence of a single organization within a partnership; and Breadth represents the array of actors involved in the partnerships (Partnerships to improve community health: an interview with Professor David Kindig of MATCH, 2010). It came as no surprise that state and local government agencies were among the most frequent contributors to public health partnerships as seen in the figure above. On the other hand hospitals, physicians, community health centers, and universities significantly increased their participation over time.

From the figure it’s also evident that public health partnerships adhere to 1 of 7 distinct structural configurations based on density, centrality and network breadth. Of these seven three configurations support a broad and comprehensive scope of public health activities and one relies heavily on the work of government public health agencies while the other two delegate considerable responsibility to other partner organizations (Woulfe et al., 2010). At the same time two partnership configurations deliver an intermediate scope of public health activities and differ primarily in the centrality of the local public health agency in these activities. While the last two configurations deliver a limited scope of public health activities and differ in both the centrality and density (Fawcett, et al., 2010). Partnerships freque...
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