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Rural Health Information Hub

Planning for Sustainability of Health Equity Programs

Sustainability planning is particularly important for health equity programs because long-term health outcomes may take several years to achieve. Rural communities may need to sustain program activities for an extended timeline to accomplish program goals. Rural communities may benefit from external coaching or technical assistance to prepare for sustainability in a way that will support program activities over the long term. For example, to help rural coalitions sustain their health equity initiatives, the Georgia Health Initiative (formerly the Healthcare Georgia Foundation) partnered with Georgia Health Decisions to offer grantees technical assistance by implementing a comprehensive sustainability planning curriculum at the onset of the grant program. The curriculum, called Seeds for Sustainability, was delivered over eight months and involved three core components:

  • Adaptive stewardship, or how do we share responsibility and ownership for achieving health equity in our community?
  • Enduring structures, or how do we build our organization for a positive and lasting impact?
  • Sustainable resources, or how do we generate monetary and human resources?

One of the sustainability planning exercises in the Seeds for Sustainability curriculum involved helping grantees move from collaborative partnerships to formal, sustainable coalitions. Grantees reviewed the characteristics of sustainable coalitions, assessed their current stage of development, and made plans for moving forward. For example, one characteristic of a formal, sustainable coalition is a vision based on long-term goals for achieving structural and systemic change. In contrast, the vision for a collaborative partnership might focus on short-term outcomes and grant-oriented deliverables.

Rural health equity programs may benefit from additional information about engaging in sustainability planning in these topic-specific toolkits:

Resources to Learn More

A Sustainability Planning Guide for Healthy Communities
Provides evidence-based approaches to help public health professionals develop, implement, and evaluate sustainable public health policy strategies. Offers examples of sustainable policy strategies in a variety of community settings.
Organization(s): National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Date: 4/2016