Collaborating for a healthy future: Key Insights from National Public Health Week

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By: Judith McAuley, Vice President, Porter Novelli

Last week marked the 2018 National Public Health Week (NPHW), hosted by the American Public Health Association (APHA). Under the theme Healthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together, organizations nationwide shone a spotlight on issues most impacting Americans right now and affecting the wellbeing of the nation – from mental health to preventable diseases, environmental health, violence and health equality.

If you read some of the data behind these health issues, you’ll agree that change won’t happen overnight and can’t be siloed. It will take a multi-stakeholder approach to solve for these critical issues. How can companies and nonprofits alike work together to build strong and resilient partnerships to support the public health community as it strives to achieve the 2030 goals?

  • Get to know one another. This seems so obvious, yet is so essential. At the onset of any good partnership, it is important to spend time together to really understand each other. These conversations can provide insight into opportunities and challenges. They may reveal competing issues, funding challenges, or ideas for additional partnerships and outreach strategies, ultimately sparking new ideas. To help achieve its goal of improving the lives of 3 billion people each year by 2025, Philips focused on getting to know consumers’ priorities by asking for input around which public health issues mattered most to them. The Better Me, Better World campaign provided users with personal benefits, while also giving them the opportunity to help prioritize the causes Philips will support in 2018.
  • Think outside the box. Just because the issue is public health does not mean the partner must be health-focused, as well. Cross-sector partners that are relevant to the audience can have a tremendous impact and reach a broader group of people. In 2016, MedStar Health, a healthcare network in the Washington, DC area, and Uber started collaborating to provide an alternative means of transportation for patients to get to their appointments, providing a fast and reliable service with financial benefits to increase access to care. Recently, Uber announced the expansion of the program with the launch Uber Health – partnering with over 100 healthcare organizations nationwide.
  • Show the value. It is a two-way street and the partner should not just be a passthrough – they should and need to be part of the program. This may include finding solutions to integrate the partner’s resources or providing opportunities to recognize their contribution in the form of cobranded materials, sharing updates in each other’s communications or linking to resources, or joint representation at conferences. Last year, Instagram celebrated Mental Health Awareness Month by using its platform to help users struggling with mental health issues find resources and support online and offline. In addition to highlighting certain mental health hashtags, the app showcased a list of resources individuals can turn to in their regions.
  • Stay in touch. Getting to know each other is important, and so is continuing the conversation. Regular check-ins should be part of the partnership and will help track and evolve the program, making it strong and resilient. To join the public health conversation, follow APHW on Twitter or participate in its Twitter chats. Check out their most recent #NPHWChat with stakeholders spanning a diverse group of public health leaders, federal agencies, members of Congress, businesses, non-profit organizations, colleges and universities, health departments and individuals.

The public health issues affecting Americans need bold ideas and creative solutions. Smart and strong partnerships can be part of the answer to move us closer to becoming the healthiest nation by 2030.