Interagency Collaboration in Public Health Care

In today’s education and professional training, much attention is paid to studying management and leadership. When studying these fields, students and trainees get skills of organizing work effectively and get ready to solving problems. Public health care is not an exception: effective approaches to organization of work are very valuable when it is talked about delivering high-quality services to the population.

Rowitz offers the case study which describes the Big City Neighborhood Health Advisor project initiated by The Big City Health Department (BCHD). It is aimed at making the activity of the BCHD meet the population’s needs. The cooperation implies involving the local community, including a local public health school (p.241). Steve Waddell in (1999) talks about perspective collaboration between companies and non-profit organizations: it helps private interests and interests of a local community meet. Companies provide assets and knowledge in organization while non-profits provide volunteer power.

Susan Imel (1992) mentions the Family Support Act that encourages interagency cooperation aimed at helping families to reach self-sufficiency. Interesting examples of interagency collaboration are provided in (USAID): particularly, cooperation between a local government, business sector and media aimed at solving problems of local community; collaboration between the Philippine government and private sector which implied that the private sector provided capital to the government.

Interagency cooperation can help public health agencies to fulfill their functions. In (2003), Louis Rowitz lists essential services of public health care that are connected with assurance. He mentions the following aspects (p. 238):

  1. Enforcement and improvement of laws and regulations that relate to public health care
  2. Connecting people in the community and ensuring that necessary services are provided
  3. Ensuring the competence of public health workforce
  4. Evaluation of programs, their effectiveness and accessibility to them
  5. Research and innovations aimed at improvement of public health care services

I think that these directions give broad field for introducing elements of interagency collaboration; moreover, their essence itself implies that collaboration should take place.

Let me discuss an example of interagency collaboration in public health care. Increasing people’s awareness of an existing public health program is very important: in case there is nothing done to tell the local community about a program, it will not work.

In this case, several dimensions of cooperation are possible. First of all, it is possible to cooperate with the local media (for example, St. Augustine Record): they will deliver information to people quickly and effectively. However, the cost of such cooperation can be high. In case we need to decrease the expense, it is possible to cooperate with local educational institutions (for example, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, St. Augustine School of Nursing), and community organizations (for example, St. Augustine Baracoa Friendship Association, Recreation Education Community Involvement, Run for Their Lives Inc etc) of different kinds: it will be possible to make presentations of a program and provide people with materials about it.

How exactly should cooperation be fulfilled? Susan Imel (1992) provides valuable recommendations on building interagency cooperation. If being in the position of head of a public health agency, I would take them into account and follow this algorithm:

  1. Recognizing the necessity of interagency collaboration. If a problem exists, it is important to notice it and to consider interagency collaboration as the way to solve it.
  2. Evaluating the environment for collaboration. It is important to access the opportunity for communication with potential collaborators, evaluate strengths and weaknesses of possible cooperation.
  3. Taking the first step: preparing to setting connection. It is necessary to formulate the rationale for cooperation so that it is possible to communicate with a potential collaborator effectively. Besides, before getting started, one should think over the essence and the major details of the future cooperation.
  4. Getting communication started: at this stage, the contact with a potential collaborator begins. It is necessary to discuss the directions of possible cooperation.
  5. Developing a team. To make the cooperation possible, it is necessary to create a team which will run the project. It should include representatives from agencies that take part in the project. At this stage, it is important to develop collaborative relationship between agencies.
  6. Working on details. We go from broad to narrow: it is necessary to develop goals and concrete directions of collaboration. This discussion should materialize in a plan which the team will follow.
  7. Getting the work started. Since the first moments, it is important to stimulate the team to follow the plan; supporting the energy and the spirit of collaboration is also crucial.

These points define problems that we can have when trying to set interagency collaboration. I think that one of the potential dangers is improper planning and missing some important details. That is why it is crucial, first of all, to involve the collaborators into the process of planning: they will be able to point out some specific issues that we may face. Secondly, it is important to monitor the fulfillment of the program on the first steps of its implementation. In this case, it will be easier to cope with the problems that appear.

References

Imel, S. (1992). Interagency Collaboration: Its Role in Welfare Reform. ERIC Digest, No.126. Web.

Rowitz, L (2003). Public Health Leadership: Putting Principles into Practice. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

USAID. (2002). Intersectoral Partnering: Handbooks. Usaid.Gov. Web.

Waddell, S. (2002). The Evolving Strategic Benefits for Business in Collaboration with Nonprofits in Civil Society: A Strategic Resources, Capabilities and Competencies Perspective. USAID. Web.