We now appreciate that the biggest drivers of individual and population health are social, economic, environmental, and behavioral. As these factors are largely informed by where people live, work, and play—communities nationwide are testing new partner strategies and interventions to address the social determinants of health.

A growing cadre of funders and programs are building local capacity for cross-sector data sharing and collaboration aimed at community health improvement. These programs and partners are simultaneously working to collect, distill, and share lessons learned to support local efforts, and to accelerate progress for this emerging field.

As part of the Community Health Peer Learning Program—a partnership with ONC—AcademyHealth explored 17 national and regional programs supporting local and cross-sector collaborations. Addressing diverse challenges (e.g., safety, social justice), focused on a range of priorities (e.g., data infrastructure, leadership cultivation), and operating at different levels (e.g., small neighborhood, large urban center), all share the common objective of building improved community health and wellness through cross-sector collaboration.

This environmental scan, Toward Data-Driven, Cross-Sector and Community-Led Transformation: An Environmental Scan of Select Programs, reveals multiple partners, connecting across traditional and non-traditional boundaries and working together in clinical and community settings to impact community health. Most are empowered by national or regional program offices that cultivate peer learning and advance community progress through the provision of technical assistance and other supports.

The environmental scan establishes a baseline understanding for this emerging field of practice, and sheds light on possible opportunities at the funder, program, and local project levels to hasten progress toward greater connectivity and collective action. It also reveals several key themes related to program structure and management, and opportunities for cross-program coordination to extend collective impact, including:

Peer learning

Peer learning is a highly effective mechanism for both the spread and scale of good ideas as well as for sharing setbacks and failed experiments. All 17 programs profiled deployed a peer learning model to facilitate interactions across local projects.

Technical assistance (TA)

It is crucial to build capacity that allows programs to respond to specific project needs, while also broadening their views of what’s possible; some level of both general inspirational and tailored practical support is required. Programs profiled use a mix of subject matter experts (SMEs), contractors, coaches, national advisory committees, among others, to design and execute TA.

Financial sustainability

There is increasing confidence in community capacity to redirect “reactive” health care spending to more upstream interventions that could yield sizeable returns in both savings and population health improvements. Several programs are exploring financial innovations, such as pay for success or social impact bonds, wellness trusts, and Delivery System Reform Incentive Payments.

Data capture, integration, and use

The development of robust, multisector data infrastructure is increasingly viewed as critical to sustain efforts that support local improvements in population health. Fourteen of 17 programs see data sharing across sectors as either “central” or a “component of” population health improvement.

To learn more about this work, and to read the full environmental scan, visit the Community Health Peer Learning Program page.

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