Defining and Measuring Sustainability in the Food & Fitness Initiative

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Several frameworks for defining and measuring sustainability in public health have been documented in the literature. For the Food & Fitness Initiative, sustainability was a central aim at the outset and was defined broadly throughout the project. Sustainability included not only funding and resources necessary to support organizational structures but was a core function of how these partnerships were able to focus their work, build capacity, forge lasting relationships, execute the work, and produce systems and policy changes that would endure over time. In this article, we present findings from an online survey assessing partners’ views on 10 distinct dimensions of sustainability and several key themes from a set of key informant interviews with partnership leaders. Of the 10 dimensions, participants reported having the most success in creating (1) community ownership, where initiatives are led by and reflect the needs of community residents; (2) a vision that is shared across partners and developed collaboratively; and (3) leadership that includes a diverse team of skilled, credible people. A key learning in this project was that sustainability needs to be intentional and clearly defined and that evaluations should include multiple and ongoing methods to capture several dimensions of sustainability.

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