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Activity 4: Partnerships and Coalitions

Infrastructure Development Tools

A partnership is a "voluntary, strategic alliance of public, private and nonprofit organizations to enhance each other's capacity to achieve a common purpose by sharing risk, responsibility, resources and awards." (Arthur Himmelman) In other words, a partnership is comprised of organizations that share a common focus and combine resources to implement joint activities.

The state oral health program may find it helpful to identify, consult with, and involve partners, inside and outside the state health department, to address areas critical to developing state-level and community-based programs to promote oral health and prevent disease. Partnerships can leverage opportunities to integrate oral health efforts by working with other programs that address related chronic diseases or risk factors.

Additionally, partnerships can avoid duplication of effort, ensure synergy of resources, and enhance the overall leadership within the state. In some instances, it may be helpful to delineate partner roles with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Partnerships and collaborations are what coalitions aim to promote.

States with adequate capacity may wish to:

  • Increase the number of partnerships that sustain and support the oral health program.
  • Improve or extend oral disease prevention activities.
  • Institutionalize or encourage integration of oral health into overall health.
  • Create opportunities for enhancing partnerships such as:
    • Hosting campaigns and summits to promote oral health
    • Obtaining organizational commitments to promote oral health
    • Collaborating on policy changes and in-kind or other support for oral health activities

A coalition is an "organization of diverse interest groups that combine their human and material resources to effect a specific change the members are unable to bring about independently." (Cheri Brown) An active, independent statewide oral health coalition can help a state achieve its oral health goals.

Coalition membership should be diverse and representative of stakeholders from public and private organizations and groups internal and external to state government that share common strategic interests. This diverse group can educate others within the community about a state's oral health needs and help to strengthen the state oral health program.

A coalition can help formulate plans, guide oral health program activities, and get funding. Effective oral health coalitions have included representatives of:

  • Other state agencies (e.g., the state education agency)
  • State and local dental organizations
  • Social service organizations
  • Nongovernment organizations
  • Community organizations, including health centers and clinics
  • Local and regional education organizations and personnel (school administrators, school nurses, PTA)
  • Colleges and universities
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Businesses
  • Third-party payers (managed care, insurance, Medicaid)
  • Advocates (consumer, child, patient)
  • Foundations

States with more advanced capacity can expand the statewide oral health coalition, address independent institutionalization and sustainability, and expand coalition activities through demonstrated outcomes linked to an action plan. Advanced coalitions may acquire dedicated support staff.

By engaging groups that are working toward a common goal, a state can develop effective strategies to address unmet oral health needs and eliminate oral health disparities among its residents.

Additional Resources

Coalition Framework [PDF–35K]

Community Roots for Oral Health—Guidelines for Successful Coalitions
This document, developed by the Washington State Department of Health, provides guidelines for building and sustaining a successful oral health coalition.

ASTDD Best Practice Approach: State Oral Health Coalitions and Collaborative Partnerships

The Community Tool Box

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