Thought leadership

Governing Community Health Partnerships

Governing Community Health Partnerships

Board work has become more complicated and time consuming. It will get more challenging in the next five years as our health systems are encouraged, by mission and payment reforms, to explore how best to master investments that seek value and increased community health gains, rather than just more healthcare and increased spending. Maximizing the ROI on these investments will stretch board leaders to become more comfortable, confident and competent in the development and governance of Community Health Partnerships.

Cost-Effective Community Health Partnerships must have three characteristics:

  1. Focusing on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)[1] to achieve sustainable gains in health, not just more health care service use;
  2. Engaging with diverse leaders of diverse community organizations not always used to collaborating together; and
  3. Celebrating meaningful results among diverse stakeholders throughout the community.

Fortunately there are now many resources that board leaders can use to guide their development and governance of these community health partnerships. Review this article and arrange a conversation at your next board meeting about how these resources can expand and enhance your current roadmap into the confusing landscape of population health.[2]

The board’s work for partnering

There are five essential activities that wise boards should master for successful and sustainable community health partnerships:

Strategy 1: Expand your traditional “Community Health Needs Assessments” (CHNA) beyond an obligatory exercise to meet tax-exemption guidelines, into a robust opportunity to join with a diverse mix of community development organizations to conduct a process of health and wellbeing needs identification and response planning. A useful guide for such joint planning can be downloaded from this site:  

The diversity of organizations that need to be woven into a resilient and effective champion for the community’s health and wellbeing should include at least these:

  • Schools, school boards, and parent teacher organizations
  • Economic development and job creation organizations like chambers of commerce for all ethnic sub-groups and state and regional economic growth agencies
  • Patient’s rights and disease-targeted advocacy groups
  • Public safety, social justice, police and firefighting organizations
  • Housing developers, subsidized housing groups and homeless shelters
  • Food shelves, nutrition programs and retail restaurant organizations

Many organizations are also incorporating medical staff development planning into their CHNA and strategic planning process in order to plan ahead and ensure they have the professional resources required to meet the community needs, particularly if the community is growing.

Strategy 2: Study case examples of how other health sector organizations are pursuing partnerships. Lessons from over 25 years of experience in partnerships are summarized from the Foster McGaw Award Program in this useful report:

Strategy 3: Explore how a new model of “Collaborative Governance” can help inform your reliance on appreciative listening and win-win planning philosophies that build trust among eclectic community organizations. A recent paper on Collaborative Governance may be downloaded here:

Strategy 4: Enter into a “Social Compact” agreement among all of the community partners where all agree to certain performance goals, styles of progress monitoring, sources of shared funding, and transparency of working with and communicating to the general public and media outlets. For compact insights, see:

For use of social media to nurture partnering, see:

Strategy 5: Share the costs of staffing and funding a “Coordinating Organization” that provides backbone supportive services to the collaborative. This is best articulated by the Collective Impact Movement[3] outlined here:

How can your governance stakeholders and leaders best explore and embrace these strategies for your local community and region? As healthcare resources and needs continue to shift and change, so too must the approach to ensuring the community’s needs to access to care and resources must also be nimble.

James A. Rice

Jim Rice, PhD, FACHE is the Managing Director & Practice Leader with the Governance & Leadership service line of Gallagher’s Human Resources & Compensation Consulting practice. He focuses his consulting work on strategic governance structures and systems for high performing, tax-exempt nonprofit, credit union and health sector organizations and integrated care systems; visioning for large and small not-for-profit organizations; and leadership development for Boards and C-Suite Senior Leaders. 

Dr. Rice holds masters and doctoral degrees in ...

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