Learnings on Governance from Partnerships that Improve Community Health

As health care evolves toward a community and population health focus, new models of care delivery and governance are emerging. These models reflect a focus on multi-sector collaborative partnerships involving hospitals, health systems, public health and other community organizations developed to address community health in its broadest sense, optimizing both health status and quality of life. This multisector, collaborative approach to community health improvement has been endorsed by the Institute of Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other organizations and studies (Prybil et. al, 2014) as an inclusive, productive way to benefit communities and achieve the Triple Aim.

The AHA’s Center for Healthcare Governance, with generous support from the Baxter International Foundation, studied how selected Foster G. McGaw Prize recipients are working with community partners to better understand and address community health needs and ensure sustainable partnership governance. The organizations profiled here were selected because of their broadly recognized devotion to community health, development of enduring partnerships that improve it, and track record of achievement. This report shares findings that emerged from primary research of the study participants’ community partnerships and a broader Blue Ribbon Panel discussion of community partnership structure and functions; mission, vision and sustainability; and governance. Thirty-four interviews were conducted with hospital/ system leaders and individuals affiliated with the community partnerships in the study to develop comparable profiles of these partnerships.

Areas of focus included each partnership’s governance model; governance responsibilities and authority; reporting structures and processes; partnership staffing; partnership resources and funding; challenges; and advice to others seeking avenues to facilitate community health improvement. A Blue Ribbon Panel reviewed findings emerging from the interviews and discussed commonalities, differences, and key themes and learnings about the governance of these community partnerships that may be used by the field. The Blue Ribbon Panel was comprised of representatives of the organizations studied and their community partners, along with governance experts, others representing additional community partnership models, AHA’s Center for Healthcare Governance, Foster G. McGaw Prize Committee members and an executive of the Baxter International Foundation.

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