Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Community Coalitions: Foundations for Success in Health Promotion for Older Adults

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Community Coalitions: Foundations for Success in Health Promotion for Older Adults

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Community coalitions are an excellent means for initiating health promotion programs for older adults. Coalitions bring diverse community resources together to meet the complex needs of health promotion programming. In return, the professionals and the institutions they represent receive networking opportunities along with community recognition. In this paper the authors describe a model for initiating and managing coalitions by establishing clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and rights for each coalition member. Use of this model reduces role ambiguity and facilitates the integrative nature of coalitions.

BACKGROUND

Healthy People 2000 is a national health campaign that seeks to decrease preventable death and disability among Americans. One of the goals of this campaign is to provide 90% of older adults the opportunity to participate in a community-based health promotion program by 2000 (National Center for Health Statistics, 1991). The goal emphasizes "community-based" because community-supported health promotion programs work. Such programs are most successful when developed and implemented in an atmosphere that fosters a sense of collaboration among community agencies, organizations, and citizens. A formal collaboration, known as a coalition (Gamson, 1961, Jackson & Maddy, 1992), involves individuals or organizations working together in a united effort to maximize limited resources.

The purpose of this paper is to describe a model for initiating and managing coalitions by establishing clearly defined roles for each coalition member. This model was developed as part of a community-based health promotion program for older adults known as Personal Actions To Health (PATH). The authors use a composite case study to describe a successful strategy for resolving difficulties commonly associated with maintaining multi-agency collaborations. In a coalition setting, members identified leadership, order/organization, task orientation, and decision-making as factors that contribute to continued success (Butterfoss, Goodman, & Wandersman, 1996). in the PATH model these factors were operationalized as coalition members' roles, responsibilities, and rights.

Characteristics of Coalitions

Communities have diverse resources that can positively affect health promotion programming for older adults. Unfortunately, these diverse resources do not naturally coalesce. They need a reason and a coordinating force to come together. A grant-funded opportunity that requires the development of a community-based coalition to develop a health promotion program for older adults is one such force. Good coalitions produce great programs, but as experienced coalition members know, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working in groups.

Advantages of working within a coalition include: more effective and efficient delivery of programs; improved communication among stakeholders; elimination of program duplication; better understanding of the community's needs; improved public image; dissemination of a consistent message; an enhanced pool of resources; and an opportunity for professional development as members learn from one another (Jackson & Maddy, 1992). Furthermore, coalitions have the ability to address health promotion efforts for the individual as well as the community in which they reside (Strokols, 1996; Wandersman, Valois, Ochs, de la Cruz, Adkins, & Goodman, 1996).

Seasoned community agency professionals are sometimes hesitant to become involved in coalitions because of the disadvantages of working in groups. Operating within a coalition environment takes time, often more time than working alone. it takes longer to discuss issues and reach a consensus in the diverse coalition environment. Everv coalition must work through issues of turf protection, assignment of credit for contributions, and individual (and sometimes hidden) agendas-all of which may add friction to the coalition process. …

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