Partnerships, Coalitions & Collaborations

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Partnerships, coalitions, and collaborations are necessary for the success of any public health program. Both partnerships and coalitions fulfill different roles and are able to accomplish different activities for the state oral health program.  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.

Partnerships: A partnership is composed of organizations that share a common focus and combine resources to implement joint activities. Partnerships can avoid duplication of effort, ensure synergy of resources, and enhance the overall leadership within the state. A state oral health program should find it helpful to

  • Identify and consult with a variety of partners both internal and external, including national and state organizations and local partners such as business and industry, government, and academia.
  • Involve all partners during the decision making process.
  • Leverage opportunities to integrate oral health efforts by working with other programs that address related chronic diseases or risk factors.
  • Delineate partner roles with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
  • 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.

Coalitions: The state oral health program should assist in building coalitions that are

  • Active, independent statewide groups that can help a state achieve its oral health goals.
  • 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.
  • Leaders, formulating plans and guiding oral health program activities.
  • Sustainable and expand coalition activities through demonstrated outcomes linked to an action plan.
  • Effective oral health coalitions have representatives from
    • Other state agencies.
    • 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.

Collaborations: State oral health programs are encouraged to collaborate with other public health programs, especially those focusing on preventing and controlling other chronic diseases. Collaboration can help to enhance program capacity, marketing, and resources. Program size and complexity may influence the state’s ability to use existing resources for collaboration efforts.

Examples of collaboration include the following:

  • Sharing staff positions that provide cross-cutting program services such as evaluation, epidemiology, health education, and communication.
  • Coordinating activities that support oral disease prevention as well as other chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, healthy aging, tobacco cessation, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Facilitating information sharing and training opportunities across programs.
  • Facilitating collaborative strategic planning to address disparities and disease burden issues.
  • Participating in data collection and reporting across programs such as nutrition and oral health.

Additional Resources


Washington State Department of Health: Community Roots for Oral Health—Guidelines for Successful Coalitions

Work Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas: The Community Tool Box

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


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