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Rural Health Information Hub

Importance of Planning for Sustainability

A diabetes program is more likely to continue uninterrupted when sustainability is considered early on in the planning process. Program planners from the Diabetes Initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) reported that “thinking about sustainability too late” was a key threat to successfully maintaining program operations. Rural programs planning for long-term sustainability should consider strategies for supporting program staff, resources, and partnerships. These strategies should be determined from the outset of program design and implementation.

The sustainability of diabetes programs often depends on the value individuals and organizations see in the program and the support they are willing to commit to ongoing operations. Program planners may need to justify continued investment in diabetes programs by sharing information that demonstrates how investments in prevention and management can benefit the community — for example, by leading to improved health outcomes and decreased healthcare utilization. Evaluation activities can help gather information that demonstrates a program's value. For example, evaluation can be used to track progress on process and outcome measures for diabetes prevention and management programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a seven-part guide for building the business case for diabetes self-management education and support.

Key questions rural programs should consider when planning for sustainability include:

  • What strategies will be used to obtain input and buy-in from community and stakeholder organizations?
  • What are the appropriate evaluation measures for assessing program outcomes or return on investment?
  • Who are the potential funders of program operations?
  • What are long- and short-term sustainability strategies to achieve program goals?
  • What kinds of financial, staff, and in-kind resources are necessary for sustained program success?
  • How can we document and share information on program success and progress? What results are program funders most interested in learning?
  • How can we share results of program success in a way that resonates with funders?
  • What are potential challenges to success and potential solutions to overcome these issues?

Rural diabetes program leaders may benefit from additional information about engaging in sustainability planning from other Rural Health Information Hub topic-specific toolkits:

Resources to Learn More

Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program: The Business Case for Inclusion as a Covered Health Benefit
Describes findings from the implementation of the Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Change Program (DPLCP), an employee sponsored lifestyle intervention program to prevent or delay the
onset of type 2 diabetes in people with or at risk for prediabetes through dietary changes and increased physical activity. Discusses the reasons why offering DPLCP to their employees is good for the company as well as the employees by improving health outcomes, reducing loss of work days, and decreasing healthcare costs.
Organization(s): Florida Health Care Coalition
Date: 1/2015