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Importance of Sustainability Planning for Health Literacy Programs

It is important that sustainability planning be built into early program development efforts. Creating actionable plans for long-term program success during the early stages of program development can help rural programs avoid resource exhaustion, staff burnout, and loss of community support during implementation.

Important sustainability considerations include:

  • Determining who are the health literacy advocates in the organization and community
  • Considering barriers and innovative solutions
  • Modifying programs and services to align with new research data and health literacy approaches
  • Strengthening existing partnerships and seeking out opportunities to form new ones with local businesses, organizations, and government sectors that share common goals to improve health literacy
  • Empowering employees to support sustainability strategies through trainings, professional development, and other incentives to attract and retain the health workforce
  • Developing a contingency plan for management and staff turnover
  • Extending data collection beyond the program implementation period to evaluate longer-term outcomes of the program
  • Making allowances for deviations or changes from the original plan for program implementation; some parts of a program may be phased out while new ones are introduced

Evaluation plays a critical role in sustainability planning as it can demonstrate whether a program has achieved its intended impact on health literacy. Building in ongoing process evaluation as part of planning for sustainability can help to determine whether program processes have been implemented successfully or if there are areas in need of improvement. Through this continuous process, programs may be able to identify the most important elements for improving health literacy, which can help ensure that those activities continue in future iterations of the program.

Additional tips and information on sustainability planning can be found in Sustainability Planning Tools, a collection of resources from the Georgia Health Policy Center.

Resources to Learn More

Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
An instructional guide for developing a financial sustainability plan. Discusses the importance and the basics of developing a sustainability plan and includes useful worksheets and examples.
Organization(s): Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas, The Community Tool Box

Project Sustainability Action Plan SAMPLE
Provides a detailed reference model for rural communities to use when establishing a sustainability plan.
Organization(s): National Rural Health Resource Center, Rural Health Innovations, LLC
Date: 10/2019