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Rural Health Information Hub

Developing Cross-Sector Partnerships to Address Social Determinants of Health

Rural communities working to address social determinants of health (SDOH) emphasize the importance of developing robust, cross-sector partnerships in order to improve community buy-in, have the capacity to address SDOH, and make the most of limited resources in rural areas. Strong partnerships across sectors can help programs engage the right audiences as well as pool efforts and resources to address SDOH. The work of improving health and well-being in communities is challenging and may involve the coordination of many different SDOH approaches at once. Having a strong network of partners collaborating towards a common goal can build social capital and help improve the likelihood that community outcomes will improve and that programs can be sustained for years to come.

Forming lasting partnerships is an essential ingredient for programs working to address SDOH in rural communities. Finding partners who have similar interests and goals is important to ensure continued engagement and success. Including partners in the planning of program development and implementation from the beginning is important to ensuring that all parties are working towards the same goals. Cross-sector partnerships can help to identify common funding streams. Building coalitions and an alliance to support the mission is essential to program success.

Identifying and engaging community champions and local change agents is another important strategy to reach a significant number of residents and to engage them throughout the duration of a program. Champions who are trusted community members may be able to develop effective messaging strategies for addressing SDOH and improving community buy-in.

A coordinated approach engaging many partners is a key component to successfully addressing SDOH. Examples of the types of stakeholders and partners to be considered to coordinate efforts to address rural SDOH include:

  • Farmers and farmworkers
  • Federal, state, and local health and human service agencies
  • Healthcare systems and healthcare providers
  • Land grant universities and extension offices
  • Law enforcement
  • Local agencies and businesses
  • Nonprofits, such as community- and faith-based organizations
  • School systems and higher education
  • Transportation providers
  • Tribal agencies
  • Philanthropic organizations and other funders

Resources to Learn More

Partnership Assessment Tool for Health
Provides an assessment tool to help community-based organizations who are already engaged in partnerships with healthcare organizations assess and strengthen these existing relationships. Includes additional resources for developing new partnerships.
Organization(s): Nonprofit Finance Fund, Center for Health Care Strategies, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
Date: 2017

Practical Playbook
Describes a framework for a collaborative approach between primary care and public health groups to improve population health. Includes step-by-step considerations to successfully address an identified health issue.
Organization(s): deBeaumont Foundation, Duke Family Medicine & Community Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Supporting Change Agents across Sectors to Improve Health and Equity in Rural Communities
Describes project findings related to health improvement change agents across sectors.
Author(s): Meit, M., Phillips, E., Rosenfeld, A., et al.
Organization(s): NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis
Date: 2/2018