Survey with ICMA and Case Studies in Colorado, Florida and Minnesota Focus on Affordable Housing, Healthy Community Design, and Substance Misuse

As the nation continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a new report explores how local government agencies are collaborating to help address today’s greatest public health challenges. The report delivers detailed information and promising practices for government and public health officials to consider when it comes to cross-sector collaborations to improve population health. The report utilizes a mixed-methods approach, drawing on the results of a quantitative survey and qualitative case studies.

Successful Collaborations Between Local Government and Public Health: Exploring Multisector Partnerships to Improve Population Health was conducted by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) and commissioned by the de Beaumont Foundation. Download the research here, or watch the related webinar:

“The global COVID-19 health crisis has made it abundantly clear that to meet the complex public health challenges of the twenty-first century, state and local public health agencies must have an agile workforce that can engage in cross-sector collaboration with a variety of local government partners,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, report co-author and SLGE research director.

“Whether responding to a pandemic, wildfires, housing challenges or the opioid crisis, a coordinated approach among multiple agencies and sectors is needed – including public health, transportation, education, public safety and public works. Our research makes clear that cross-sector collaborations are happening but look different across agencies – there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We hope this report provides examples of what works and specific data to help government officials make critical workforce and policy decisions,” Liss-Levinson said.

The research was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the results are timely as state and local public health agencies partner with multiple local government agencies and departments to respond to the pandemic and other challenges. Also, as states and localities focus on the recovery of public finances in the wake of the pandemic, these collaborative arrangements offer opportunities for future cost savings and increased efficiencies, while enhancing service offerings.

The report offers a landscape assessment to better understand how state and local public health departments engage with other local government agencies: how organizations are collaborating, the barriers to successful partnerships, how outcomes of these partnerships are being measured, and opportunities for improvement. It includes:

  • The results of an online survey conducted by SLGE in collaboration with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) focused on barriers and opportunities to general local governments working with state and local public health agencies. Overall, the survey reveals that local governments are actively working to address many of today’s key public health challenges and are collaborating with multiple partners, with public health agencies more likely to be involved in partnerships addressing substance misuse/prescription drug overdose than in partnerships addressing healthy community design or safe, stable, affordable housing.
  • The findings of three case studies of successful local government cross-sector collaborations on healthy community design in the city of Arvada, Colorado; safe, stable, affordable housing in the county of Sarasota, Florida; and substance misuse/prescription drug overdose in the county of Hennepin, Minnesota.
  • Key takeaways on cross-sector collaborations to help state and local elected and appointed leaders, public health agencies, other local government agencies, and other stakeholders develop innovative collaborations to improve population health. These include:
    • Building strong internal relationships that are in place before reaching out to the wider community.
    • Obtaining leadership support in the form of resource allocation or a supportive environment.
    • Finding program champions inside and outside of public that embrace the same priorities to play a leadership role.
    • Communicating regularly with stakeholders, with clear parameters as to when and how information is being communicated and what the expectations are for each partner in the collaboration.
    • Engaging the community with trust and transparency and listening to stakeholder input.