Partnering for Economic Sustainability

I heard on the news recently that there’s a silver lining to the economic troubles facing us right now: people actually live healthier during economic downturns! We eat at home more, we exercise more, we’re less apt to smoke and drink, and we don’t drive as much. I hope that’s comforting to all of you as you see your budgets shrink.

The good thing about the partnerships described in the comments to my last post is that they are broadly collaborative. That makes them more resistant to economic downturns. I count 54 members of the The Eat Smart, Move More Leadership Team – groups from academia, the medical industry, and non-profits; groups that are local, statewide, faith based, youth-oriented, and farm or school oriented; groups that focus on nutrition, or activity, or the environment that encourages healthy living. Bringing all these groups and individuals together to gather information and then actually DO something with that information is exciting. Someone will always have a new idea, the right expertise, and "know someone who knows someone" who can get it done.

“Vaccinate and Vote” is a collaboration between the Virginia Department of Health and the Augusta Medical Center and Eastern Virginia Medical School. It’s exciting because it brings together academia, the public health system, and a private health care center – around an issue important to all of them. The breadth of this type of collaboration is always a good thing in turbulent economic times, because it shares the cost AND because it nurtures longer-term collaboration. The next time these partners think of a good idea, they won’t have to re-start the negotiations. They’ll be able to “start where they left off” so to speak.

We’ve seen that phenomenon in our alumni, who often say, “We did that one MAPH project, and other ideas just kept coming up!” One team from a county Animal Control Services Division several years ago worked with local veterinarians (initially seen as competitors) to build and staff a spay/neuter clinic in their community. Since then, they’ve established continuing educational programs for local veterinarians and their staff, created educational programs for local schools, partnered with pharmaceutical company that makes rabies vaccine, and worked with the local college pre-veterinary program whose students act as interns in the spay-neuter clinic, among other projects. In a way, once you start, it never ends!

I look forward to hearing more about interesting and exciting collaborations going on. And what about challenges you’ve found? What did you do about them?