Multisector Health Policy Networks in 15 Large US Cities

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Abstract

Context:

Local health departments (LHDs) have historically not prioritized policy development, although it is one of the 3 core areas they address. One strategy that may influence policy in LHD jurisdictions is the formation of partnerships across sectors to work together on local public health policy.

Design:

We used a network approach to examine LHD local health policy partnerships across 15 large cities from the Big Cities Health Coalition.

Setting/Participants:

We surveyed the health departments and their partners about their working relationships in 5 policy areas: core local funding, tobacco control, obesity and chronic disease, violence and injury prevention, and infant mortality.

Outcome Measures:

Drawing on prior literature linking network structures with performance, we examined network density, transitivity, centralization and centrality, member diversity, and assortativity of ties.

Results:

Networks included an average of 21.8 organizations. Nonprofits and government agencies made up the largest proportions of the networks, with 28.8% and 21.7% of network members, whereas for-profits and foundations made up the smallest proportions in all of the networks, with just 1.2% and 2.4% on average. Mean values of density, transitivity, diversity, assortativity, centralization, and centrality showed similarity across policy areas and most LHDs. The tobacco control and obesity/chronic disease networks were densest and most diverse, whereas the infant mortality policy networks were the most centralized and had the highest assortativity. Core local funding policy networks had lower scores than other policy area networks by most network measures.

Conclusion:

Urban LHDs partner with organizations from diverse sectors to conduct local public health policy work. Network structures are similar across policy areas jurisdictions. Obesity and chronic disease, tobacco control, and infant mortality networks had structures consistent with higher performing networks, whereas core local funding networks had structures consistent with lower performing networks.

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