Coordination and collaboration among public, private, and nonprofit groups is the cornerstone of the Healthy Cities and Communities philosophy. The road to collaboration is fraught with challenges. Turf issues, crossed communications, and conceptual misunderstandings all have the potential to derail rewarding, synergistic efforts. Nonetheless, collaboration has been a key ingredient in much of the Program’s success.
To promote the collaboration, the Project decided to locate its office in the state capital. In Sacramento the Project was well positioned to form significant partnerships with DHS programs and with local government associations, policy groups, health care organizations (and their associations), a food security organization, the state recreation society, and the education and faith sectors. Because each sector reaches a different constituency, these relationships allow for cross-pollination that would not otherwise be possible.
One of the most important—and certainly the longest running—collaborations has been with DHS. Beyond funding, this collaboration has included the Program’s roots in what was then the Department’s Health Promotion Section. Being physically housed within a DHS facility for the first 10 years provided for an exchange of ideas and resources and heightened visibility. Later, when the Program moved to an off-site location in 1998, Program and DHS staff continued to serve on each other’s advisory committees and grant review panels, and alert each other to opportunities and resources for communities with which they work.
Working with so-called “good government groups” has enhanced communication with both elected and appointed local government officials. At the state level, Program staff and groups such as the League of California Cities, the Institute for Local Self-Government, and the Local Government Commission have presented at each others’ conferences and shared expertise on ad hoc committees and review panels. At the national level, information has been shared with groups such as the National Civic League and the National League of Cities through journal articles, newsletters, and conference presentations.
Local health departments have been critical partners for local initiatives and the Program. Key officials in local health departments attend Program orientations and receive the names and contact information of representa¬tives from cities and communities in their service areas. Local health department staff are routinely invited to Program events and are frequently asked to make presentations, serve on award and grant review panels, and co-sponsor programs in their area. All local Healthy Cities and Communities initiatives are encouraged to involve health department representatives in their work, and health officers are notified about any initiatives in their jurisdictions. The Program also regularly sends publications and announcements to health departments.
Finally, mutual support is an important, albeit intangible, aspect of all of these relationships. The Healthy Cities and Communities movement is about people. Emotional and spiritual support and encouragement to continue this work might be the most valuable outcome of collaboration.