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Effectiveness and Challenges of Regional Public Health Partnerships in Nebraska

Chen, Li-Wu MHSA, PhD; Roberts, Sara MPH; Xu, Liyan MD, MS; Jacobson, Janelle MPH; Palm, David PhD

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: March/April 2012 - Volume 18 - Issue 2 - p 148–155
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e318239918f
Research Brief Report

Objective: The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness and challenges of regional public health partnerships by exploring the experiences of 2 multicounty LHDs in Nebraska.

Settings: The selection of the 2 local health department (LHD) sites was on the basis of the history of prior collaborative partnership in the LHD jurisdiction. Both regional LHD jurisdictions cover a service area of 9 counties.

Design: A mixed method research design was used for this study. We first conducted an online survey to create an inventory of partnerships for each LHD site. Then, we collected quantitative data to measure the effectiveness of partnerships through a survey of community partners in both LHD sites. We also collected qualitative information through telephone interviews with community partners and LHD staff to examine the challenges for building an effective regional partnership.

Results: Regional public health partnerships are most effective in efficiency, but less effective in the areas of management and resource sufficiency. More effort is still needed to maximize the collaborative potential for the majority of partnerships in both regions. In particular, geographic distance and work demand were identified as the 2 major challenges by community partners. The community health planning partnership in the LHD site with prior history of collaboration was more effective than its counterpart without such history.

Conclusions: Policy makers should consider developing policies to assist multicounty LHDs with improving their management of regional partnerships and with providing sufficient resources to support their regional partnerships. If possible, the formation of regional community health planning partnership should follow the geographic boundaries where prior collaboration already existed.

This study examines the effectiveness and challenges of regional public health partnerships by exploring the experiences of 2 multicounty local health departments in Nebraska.

Department of Health Services Research and Administration, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha (Drs Chen and Xu and Ms Jacobson); Office of Rural Health, Bureau of Local and Rural Health, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Topeka (Ms Roberts); and Office of Community Health and Performance Management, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Lincoln (Dr Palm).

Correspondence: Li-Wu Chen, MHSA, PhD, Department of Health Services Research & Administration, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 984350 Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198 (liwuchen@unmc.edu).

The authors thank the directors, staff, and community partners of the health departments included in this study for their participation in this study. They also thank Susan Nardie, Fred Ullrich, and the Department of Health Services Research and Administration Graduate Assistants for their assistance with the project.

Support for this project was provided by a Public Health Systems Research grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.