Leaders of nonprofit social service organizations are seeing benefits from cross-sector collaborations with government partners as they work to reduce persistent health inequities in their communities. These preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health are caused by social, economic, and environmental factors. Nationwide, these inequities have been estimated to cost $93 billion in excess medical costs and $42 billion in lowered productivity each year.
When state government agencies work closely with communities experiencing health inequities, together they can better define key problems and develop a shared vision for equitable solutions. More broadly, health equity is the guiding principle that disparities in health outcomes caused by factors such as race, income, or geography should be addressed and prevented, providing opportunities for all people to be as healthy as possible.
Public health officials are embracing multisector approaches, a key component of what is known as “Public Health 3.0,” to address health and health equity. Public Health 3.0, launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2016, is a new model for improving public health that focuses on deliberate collaboration across both health and nonhealth sectors. In particular, governments should engage communities of color that have been disproportionately harmed by poor health outcomes that can be attributed, at least in part, to systemic racism.
However, constrained resources, language issues, and historic distrust of government, among other factors, can inhibit the creation of such partnerships. The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, seeks to bridge these gaps through its Calling All Sectors: State Agencies Joined for Health initiative. The initiative supports state agencies in nine states and the District of Columbia that are working with nongovernmental partners to address inequities with a focus on maternal and infant health. In alignment with Public Health 3.0’s objectives, Calling All Sectors’ partners work together across multiple sectors and with communities to address complex health problems.
Through this initiative, participants have learned about effective engagement strategies to address the barriers to collaboration. Here, coordinators from three nongovernmental organizations in Washington state, Colorado, and Mississippi share their experiences on the cross-sector teams. (author abstract)