Inspiring Sustainable Community Health Improvement Together
Struggling to put best-practice guidelines into action, inspire your coalition to take ownership of the work or make health a shared value? If yes, we’re here to help. We’ll help you achieve improved health outcomes and sustainable change by expertly guiding you through the process of how to:
- Align health as a shared value to inspire community action
- Understand community needs
- Build community capacity and activate coalitions
- Construct a sustainable financial structure
- Leverage data for engagement to influence the change process
- Attain maximum community engagement
- Measure impact successfully
Our Proven Process for Sustainability
As a result of our real-world experience working in rural New Ulm, Minn., our team of population health experts discovered which strategies and approaches are successful, as well as those that aren’t successful, in addressing various challenges. By taking the best practices from our experience, we’ve developed and refined a proven process that integrates the key steps for sustainability of community health improvement work and impact.
Read more about each element from the model shown at right below.
“Sustainability is a community’s ongoing capacity and resolve to work together to establish, advance and maintain effective strategies that continuously improve health and quality of life for all.”
Evidence-Informed Practices: Bringing Science to Real Life
Achieving sustainable health outcomes doesn’t happen by simply guessing what works – or implementing programs just because community members like and enjoy them. Programming can be expensive and time-consuming to offer, and often doesn’t reach key audiences. Implementing evidence-based strategies means focusing on what we know works and efficient use of resources. By layering programs on top of policy, systems and environmental work, initiatives can maximize their reach and engagement and create a sustainable, supportive environment for health in their community.
Leadership Model: Moving from Buy-in to Ownership
As health care moves beyond hospital and clinic walls and out into communities, many community health initiatives struggle to be seen as something other than a hospital program, which is simply not sustainable in the long run. An effective leadership model with representation from across the community helps enable and support community ownership, and promotes health as a shared value across your community. It’s about the individuals within your community’s various organizations and the collective health impact they can achieve.
Strategy and Action Plan: Aligning Priorities; Sustaining Momentum
Facilitating lasting change and achieving health improvement goals requires identifying specific goals and objectives. To succeed, initiatives must use data and a proven process for strategy development; follow a recognized method for action planning; understand the environment for policy, systems and environmental change; encourage participation and ownership; and ensure a measurement system is followed.
Comprehensive Communications Strategy: Accelerating Cultural Shifts
A comprehensive health communications strategy is critical for influencing health behaviors and accelerating a cultural shift toward health and wellness, and it requires a very thoughtful and strategic approach to do it successfully. A successful approach involves listening to the community and understanding their needs and readiness for change, using data, and communicating in a way that motivates, builds relationships and creates high levels of engagement. It’s critical to market a way of life with targeted messages that penetrate the entire community — in homes, worksites, the media, health care settings, online and across the community.
Financial Structure: Developing a Model that Fits
Developing a collective long-term financial strategy that leverages community resources and cost shares with partners is critical to ensuring long-term sustainability and ownership. However, there’s not a one-size-fits-all model — each community must develop its own unique model based on its value proposition. Program outcomes obtained with the assistance of grant funding can be unsustainable if funding ends without a plan in place to replace it. It’s imperative to develop a diverse financial strategy from the outset with key stakeholders so that there is ownership, commitment and role clarification to the strategy for long-term engagement.
Implementation Plan: Activating Community Action Teams
An effective implementation plan serves to prioritize specific initiatives and then activate specific community action teams to address them. An ideal plan includes a mix of short and long-term programs, recognizes the need for changing the environment and behaviors, and layers programs on top of policy, systems and environmental work. Recognize that creating cultural change to improve a population’s health is a marathon, not a sprint.
Data Collection and Evaluation: Engaging in a Continuous Process
From electronic health record data and population statistics to environmental assessments, resident surveys and community needs assessments, the importance of data can’t be underestimated. Assessing your community’s baseline status, engaging people along the way and measuring impact is critical for gaining a deeper understanding of your community. Once you gain that understanding, you’ll achieve better engagement and focus. Throughout the sustainability process, data collection and evaluation are crucial for influencing stakeholders, tailoring communications, informing the decision-making process, emphasizing community interests and communicating progress.