What is Cross-Sector Collaboration?

Multi-sector/cross-sector, and public-private partnerships are critical to reaching our population health. National leaders and funders, including the Institute of Medicine, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the National Prevention Strategy, have recently underscored the need for public-private partnerships to address the social determinants of health.

We bring people and organizations together

NNPHI’s member institutes are used to collaborating with a wide array of government agencies, including housing, transportation, and education, as well as academia, health care, hospital systems, businesses (such as health insurance companies), community-based organizations, foundations, and many others. At their core, NNPHI’s members are strategic conveners and often serve as a “neutral” space for partners to come together and develop shared goals and strategies. Being able to identify, engage, and nurture partnerships is the core of what makes a public health institute an NNPHI member.

Our member institutes are part of a “new Public Health”

Over the past decade, national groups have increasingly recognized the impact of the social determinants of health (SDOH), such as neighborhood conditions, institutional power, and social inequalities. PHIs are part of a “new public health” that emphasizes accountability, evidence-based standards, engagement in the political process, inclusion of multi-sector partners, and performance improvement. Often described as “health in all policies,” the work engages non-traditional partners in the development and implementation of programs, projects, and policies that carefully consider the factors outside of medical care and traditional public health that influence population health.

Success depends on the collective impact of multi-sector partnerships

Currently, the success of most public health initiatives depends upon the collective impact of multi-sector partnerships that have mission alignment or synergy. PHIs must build an organizational culture of continuously looking for new alignments and potential partnerships. The emerging field of Health in All Policies; the Institute of Medicine (IOM) study, Integrating Primary Care and Public Health; implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); and the work of the Federal Reserve regarding public health’s alignment with community development all call for developing new partnerships and alignments.

Before you begin, ask yourself these four questions…

Developing new partnerships and alignments means that PHIs always have to be expanding their vision, educating themselves, and participating in the transformational work going on in their environment. PHI staff members need to be participants at as many tables as possible.

In developing new initiatives and reaching out for new partners, always begin by asking these four key questions:

  1. Who else is doing this?
  2. How can the PHI or partner leverage mutual interest?
  3. How can the PHI share the resources being applied for or developed?
  4. What is the value proposition?

Working together

Alliances and partnerships are formed by doing real work together and sharing the resources. Leveraging what exists, adding value, and seeking inclusion are keys to forming new partnerships and alliances.


Erin Marziale, MPH

Joe Kimbrell, MA, MSW

Connect with us:

Twitter LinkedIn YouTube
Google Plus email
Connect With Us:
Subscribe To Our Communications