Posted on 20 Jan 2014
Smoking causes a host of cancers and other illnesses and is still the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. (CDC, 2010). 2014 marks 50 years after the first Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health was released. Since then, smoking prevalence among U.S. adults has been reduced by half and the majority of Americans are protected by smoke-free laws in their state or local community (CDC, 2010).
For over 3 decades, tobacco control coalitions have mobilized communities to participate in tobacco free initiatives, combat the tobacco industry, and change the culture around tobacco. After the release of the landmark Surgeon General’s Report, individuals concerned about the health effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke and alarmed at the tobacco industry’s tactics to promote tobacco use, formed nonsmokers’ rights groups across the U.S. Eventually, these groups evolved into tobacco control coalitions that work at local, statewide, and national levels.
Coalitions focus on changing policies, systems and environments. The factors that most influence tobacco use initiation and cessation include: high tobacco taxes, anti-tobacco media campaigns, negative social acceptability of smoking, and limitations on where tobacco use is permitted and how it is accessed (CDC, 2010). Based on these factors, tobacco coalitions have implemented strategies to change behavior by changing policy, community education & mobilization, counter marketing and media advocacy.
Making the case for tobacco control coalitions. Through the efforts of tobacco control coalitions in every state, over 70% of Americans are protected from secondhand smoke due to smoke-free laws and ordinances; half of the states have implemented a tobacco tax of $1.00 or higher; and the tobacco industry is continually exposed for marketing to underage youth, manipulative advertising, and using other deceptive tactics (CDC, 2010). In your work, use the following points to make the case for tobacco control coalitions (CDC, 2010):
Coalitions’ long history and wide adoption as community interventions enhance the reach of tobacco control efforts. Science supports coalitions as an effective community intervention. Tobacco control coalition efforts change social norms through policy change, which leads to decreased morbidity and mortality.
Coalitions are low cost, but their efforts result in a high return on investment. While the financial investment in coalitions is fairly low, the return on investment is high considering the effects tobacco control policies and well-funded programs have on preventing initiation of tobacco use and increasing cessation. Successful coalitions are able to effectively leverage their resources (e.g., volunteer time, services) and member expertise.
Coalitions contribute to program sustainability. Through their advocacy role, coalitions are able to build political and public support for tobacco control programs, help secure and maintain tobacco control funding, and advocate for policy change.
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health, the Office of the Surgeon General developed several resources to help you promote and share highlights from the last 50 years of tobacco control efforts. You can be a part of the effort to share information on the dangers of tobacco use by accessing these resources: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/initiatives/tobacco/resources.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Coalitions: State and Community Interventions. Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs User Guide. Atlanta, GA: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/stateandcommunity/bp_user_guide/pdfs/user_guide.pdf
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. Wahington, DC. http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/initiatives/tobacco/index.html
Posted on 13 Jan 2014
The New Year’s celebrations are over. By now, you might have completed your first round of successes (or failed attempts) of resolving to eat less, exercise more or do something that you meant to do last year. For community leaders, January also is the perfect opportunity to look to the future with renewed optimism and make important changes to improve the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your coalition or nonprofit group. So, take a look at the seven resolutions that follow and choose one or two to really implement.
Resolution #1: Take Time to Take Stock
One year is ending and another is beginning, giving your coalition a reason to take stock of all it has accomplished. Revise or create a new action plan and follow up with a report card that grades your progress toward outcomes at the end of the year. Slow down and organize a planning retreat for your leadership team to help them invest and commit to the work ahead. It’s time to put on your creative hat. If a strategy or method isn’t working, stop using it and move on. Look at new trends and figure out ways to make your coalition or nonprofit stand out. Perhaps you’ll breathe a bit of life back into your organization and attract new volunteers and donors in the process.
Resolution #2: Make Your Mission Clear and Tangible.
No matter how “complex” your work is, you can properly describe your mission and organization in less than two minutes. Another exciting idea is to make your appeals for supporters and funds tangible. By equating what a donation level equals to in terms of the mission, your volunteers and donors will have a better idea of what their contribution will give someone. If your organization is able to equate your donation ask to something tangible like a malaria shot or clean water to one person for a year, it connects the donor to the results of their impact. So, think carefully about what you can equate donations to in terms of specific products that your organization provides, living conditions you’re trying to improve, or policies you’re trying to change.
Resolution #3: Define or Redefine Your Coalition’s Brand.
Many organizations don’t see their brand (i.e. their logo, mission statement, colors, fonts or website design, etc.) as important as recruiting volunteers or raising funds. However, your brand is very important when it comes to your content and online marketing and fundraising strategy. Individuals identify with your brand when it’s consistent and clear. So, take an inventory this year of your marketing materials, including your e-newsletter, social media accounts, website, and blog. Making sure the organization’s logos and language are consistent will go a long way in retaining your audience and attracting a new one online.
Resolution #4: Show the Impact and Results of Your Coalition’s Work.
Take a step back and contemplate how you can show the results of your work, whether it’s what you accomplished last year or what you’re looking to accomplish this year. Supporters and donors want to hear about your success and how their contribution of time or money has made a difference. 2014 is the year to start bragging about all you accomplish to the world. Use your online channels, like your website and social media, and your content mediums, like video and your blog, to do this.
Does the task of promoting your coalition often slip to the bottom of your to-do list? If you want to attract attention to your cause, you have to make promotion a priority. Resolve to hire a marketing expert, or take the time to create a marketing plan on your own and follow through. If you’ve seen little success with traditional and social media, it’s time to step it up. If you want your supporters to help you spread the word about your work, give them content to share and a reason to share it via a medium that enables them. Try writing at least one blog post a week and link it to your Facebook page; increase Twitter activity to at least three times per week; and add 10 new social media contacts per week. Develop short catchy pitches that will grab traditional journalists’ attention and email them or call them directly. Provide videos that they can use online and images that will stir their readers’ emotions. You’ll not only benefit from the coverage, but they’ll thank you for the quality information and making their jobs easier.
Resolution #6: Be more productive
When you’re running a coalition, so many tasks must be done that it’s easy to think you need to do all of them. Then you wonder why you’re so tired and frazzled and have no time to do anything meaningful! Learn to delegate and let someone else do some of the tasks for a change. Look at tools that help you share documents, monitor time spent on social sites and in general, operate more efficiently. Pick a few of the following and resolve to use them in 2014: Google Docs for group projects, Dropbox for sharing files, Basecamp for tracking projects. Better yet, pick something to stop doing. Cancel a pointless meeting. Stop stressing about a grant. Do one less event. We all think that we need more time, money or resources, but really we don’t really need more time. But what we really need is to do less, so we can accomplish the few truly important things, with relish and energy. Doing less isn’t a decision to compromise, but a choice of pushing yourself to focus on what truly matters.
Resolution #7: Show Appreciation
Most coalitions would be nothing without the loyalty of their members and partners. One of the best ways to show appreciation is to offer loyal members something special. Some businesses do this through freebies, discounts or customer appreciation events that kick off the year. Coalitions and nonprofits can learn from these practices by acknowledging those who have contributed time or resources over the past year – small tokens or even personalized thank you notes show that you appreciate what your members and community supporters do to promote the work of your organization or coalition. Why not design an online recognition program, tweet about them and get votes for volunteer of the year. People love to be thanked and recognized for their contributions. The recipients will likely be so impressed that they’ll share the news with their friends and contacts, which may result in additional loyal supporters to thank next year. If you thank your partners and supporters more often, they’ll stick around and you’ll have to recruit and fundraise less.
Posted on 05 Jan 2014
What is a Culture of Health? At the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Boston in November 2013, Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), stated that the U.S. “spends more on health care than any other country by far, and yet we are not healthy. In order to create a healthier nation, we must not only treat illness, but also create opportunities to pursue the healthiest lives possible.” Lavisso-Mourey defines a culture of health as “a society in which each person has the opportunity to lead a healthy life, with adequate housing, educational opportunities, safety from violence, healthy food options, exercise, and affordable, quality health care.”
How can coalitions help? We know that businesses, communities and organizations around the country are using coalitions to mobilize, plan and initiate strategies to confront some of these issues. They know that health is connected to community, opportunity, and safety, as well as medical care. Look at what a sample of coalitions have accomplished this past year:
In Virginia, two rural counties created the Eastern Shore Healthy Communities Coalition to combat obesity by initiating Smart Bites to teach teens to eat healthy, healthy menu options in 15 restaurants, an annual fitness challenge for more than 1700 residents, walking trails in 5 towns, and wellness policies in 10 major businesses.
The Healthy Lifestyle La Plata (HLLP) coalition in Colorado used farm-to-school efforts to facilitate policy and purchasing practices that resulted in local producers providing the school district’s 6,800 students and staff members with more than 480 pounds of micro greens; 380 pounds of carrots, squash, tomatoes, broccoli, mixed greens and potatoes; 100 pounds of wheat cereal and 650 pounds of ground beef annually. These changes reduce the unnecessary importation of food and decrease the carbon footprint of food transport.
In Chicago, the Midwest Business Coalition on Health, major health plans, hospital systems, perinatal directors, Il Maternal Child Health Coalition, Childbirth Connection, March of Dimes, Chamber of Commerce, and Northwestern University created the Illinois Perinatal Quality Collaborative to focus on data sharing, appropriate perinatal standards and policies. Partnering with CBS and NBC, they are engaged in a major communications campaign to educate employers and consumers about why full term delivery is the healthy choice for mothers and babies.
The Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles is a critical resource for organizations, policymakers and opinion leaders who are engaged in violence prevention work. Their “Tuesdays at 10” peer learning workshops use a structured format to share knowledge among members. Their Community Safety Scorecard, Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline project, and Gun Safety Summit to improve gun safety and reduce lethal violence underscored their prevention efforts.
These are just a few examples of how community coalitions and partnerships are involved in creating a culture of health. While one person (e.g., Nelson Mandela) or one organization (e.g., RWJF) can certainly have an impact, the power of the combined voices and actions within a given community really drives change. And it usually requires a convener organization or coalition to coalesce those voices and encourage the more difficult policy, systems and environmental actions that lead to substantive, lasting change. I submit that building and sustaining those organizations will go a long way toward creating a culture of health.
Posted on 16 Dec 2013
I thought I’d get back to basics with this blog and define coalitions for those who might not know what they are. Although people use many terms to describe collaborative efforts, a coalition is a group of diverse organizations and constituencies who work together to reach a common goal or goals.
Coalitions operate at many levels—block/neighborhood, city, town, county, regional, state, national, international—and their scope, structure, and function varies accordingly. A community coalition serves a defined community recognized by those within it as a community (a common location or experience), but also may serve broader, diverse groups.
A partnership is similar to a coalition, but, it often is a more business-like and may involve only two organizations. As long as everyone agrees on its structure and purpose, the name of the collaboration is not critical. However, if made up only of individuals and not groups, then it is probably an organization or network and not a coalition.
Why do coalitions form? Community coalitions may form in response to an opportunity, such as the release of federal “stimulus funds” to promote healthy communities. Or they may be started because of a threat, such as the rising prevalence of bullying, autism or a campus outbreak of measles. Organizations form or join coalitions to boost resources, maximize efficiency, reduce duplication, and give them expanded access to media coverage, marketing services, expertise and influence.
How do coalitions work? Unlike networks whose members act independently, coalitions bring organizations together to act jointly. Coalitions form to address a specific, time-limited issue or they may sustain collaboration long-term. Members draw on assets from their organizations, as well as seek new resources. Roles, responsibilities, goals and commitments are written and links to outside organizations and communication channels are formal. Coalitions create decision-making and leadership structures that enable their members to speak with a united voice and engage in shared planning and action. I believe that coalitions work – that’s why used that phrase to name my company.
What do Coalitions do? Effective coalitions focus on changing policies, systems and environments to make the healthy choice, the easy choice:
- by engaging in cutting-edge media and communication campaigns,
- by creating policy agendas and advocating for laws and resolutions that promote health and well-being,
- by collaborating with directors and executives of public and private organizations to make accessible and higher quality services available to all, and
- by working with city/county planners and developers to change the physical environment (such as providing crosswalks, outdoor lighting, bike paths) to make communities safer and more healthy.
Stay tuned! In my next blog, I’ll focus on why coalitions are essential for creating a “culture of health” in America.
Posted on 10 Dec 2013
Autumn has been beautiful in Virginia. The days were sunny and clear. The nights were crisp with a hint of the winter chill to come. I love to watch the battlefields in Yorktown turn from green to gold as the low lying morning fogs and frost overtake them. Of course, the deer are plentiful, as they are protected by the National Park.
And since it is a time of harvest, I am happy to announce that I did get my book Ignite! published. I have great empathy for the farmers who plant and nurture their crops thorough drought and plenty – as usual, I experienced both in writing this book! But I am very excited about it and hope you will be too! Check it out at Author House, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
I’ve been doing a lot of consulting with business coalitions on health and have learned so much about nine of these coalitions through my work with the National Business Coalitions on Health (NBCH). I even had the wonderful opportunity to help showcase their work at the annual NBCH conference in Phoenix in November. I have had the pleasure of watching them grow and take on more difficult policy work which is natural for mature coalitions.
In the autumn phase of coalition work, you should consider the following tasks:
- Keep members and organizations engaged; review/renew member agreements
- Keep membership growing and informed; replenish or expand if needed
- Address organizational needs within coalition and revise structures/procedures as needed
- Rotate and develop leadership
- Continue to revise/implement action plans and keep projects moving ahead
- Assess changes and accomplishments
- Build on past successes to move to new goals and strategies
Finally, a word about the cabin. We moved in on Thanksgiving day with the help of our family – it was a very cold day for here (20 degrees at night) but it kept the ground frozen for moving all the heavy stuff. I have to say that after all the work and worry, it turned out exactly as we had hoped. It is cozy and feels very authentic. Our builder who grew up in these mountains just said, “It’s alive again”, referring to the fact that the cabin had been moved from Bacon Hollow rebuilt again . Is it really done? No, just like your coalition, there is still much to do – caulking, the mantle, the rock overlay on the chimney, and so on.
But we lit a fire in the fireplace, threw on heavy down comforters and had the most wonderful cozy sleep after more than two years of planning. I guess the old adage is true,“Anything worth having is worth waiting for.” Happy holidays to all!
Posted on 09 Dec 2013
My earlier textbook, Coalitions and Partnerships in Community Health, a 600-page tome, was written primarily for an academic audience. I tried to bridge the gap between the academic and practitioner community by including a number of helpful appendices and tools, but it is still a daunting text. However, as I train, speak and consult around the country, I find that my audiences are clamoring constantly for practical tools and ideas for building and sustaining community partnerships that can be used in their own backyards. So, I knew I needed to write a different kind of book with them in mind.
As I was gathering wood for a campfire in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia last fall, I was struck by the magnetic power that fire has to attract us. Fire provides warmth, protection from wild animals, light in the darkness, and heat for cooking. Fire has a magnetic power that attracts us. The dancing flames of fire inspire romance and legendary stories, generate uplifting discussion, and build camaraderie among those circled around them. And camping just isn’t camping without a campfire … the smell, the warmth, the crackle, the glowing coals, the smoky taste of campfire-cooked meals, the songs and stories, and, of course, the s’ mores. Campfires provide a deep connection with nature, time for reflection, and feelings of peace.
While conjuring up these positive images, I began to reflect on how much constructing and feeding a campfire was like building and sustaining a community coalition. We have to find the best place to build one, gather the right kinds and amounts of firewood, construct it with solid intention, and carefully nurture it until it provides a constant flame and warmth. Similarly, for a coalition, we need to assess our current collaborative environment, gather the right partners, build an effective structure, and initiate the strategies and nurture the relationships that are likely to change our communities for the better.
Coalitions have the power to catalyze a spark of an idea about how our communities could be healthier. This spark is fed by the imagination and resources of diverse community members and organizations working in partnership until we “fire up” entire sectors of our community for positive change. So, the idea of the book was born around a campfire. And, isn’t that how most good ideas come to us … sudden and unbidden … a flint-like notion that sparks a whole new thought process.
Posted on 03 Dec 2013
I was talking to my neighbor’s 17 year old daughter the other day and the conversation went something like this:
“So, Allie, how are college plans going? Any idea about where you’d like to go or what you might study?”
“I’m planning to go to college in state – hopefully Virginia Tech or UVA. I’m not very worried about where …it’s just that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. You’re so lucky – you have a career that you love – you’ve even written books. Must be nice to have everything all planned out from the start.”
At that moment, I laughed and told her, “Nothing could be farther from the truth. My life has been full of stops, starts and detours. If you have a few minutes, I’ll tell about how far-from-planned it’s been.”
She enthusiastically nodded yes and I began the story that I’ll now share with you.
I grew up in a small town in Connecticut. My mom wanted to be a nurse, but she left school in the eighth grade to help support her widowed mother and 10 siblings. I’m sure this, plus the fact that I was drawn to the helping professions, influenced my desire to become a nurse. I wanted to attend a college that was away from home and was fortunate to receive a scholarship to Penn in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. I married my college sweetheart and, after graduation, worked as a public health nurse. I found that I enjoyed the teaching and counseling parts of nursing more than bedside care, so I enrolled at Penn again and earned a Masters in Secondary Education, while my husband attended Dental School under a military scholarship.
Then, we embarked on a 15 year stint with the army dental corps which took us to Italy, Germany, Texas, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. I worked as a nurse or teacher, depending on job availability, and had 3 children along the way. Later, I was told that my resume was “spotty”. Finally, at the age of 39, I had the opportunity to meld my interests and earn a doctoral degree in public health promotion and education at the University of South Carolina. We made our 17th move to settle in Yorktown, Virginia, and I started an academic career as a professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) in Norfolk doing community health research.
After 16 years at EVMS, I was ready for a change. I loved the consulting that I had done to provide training and technical assistance to public health agencies, non-profits and communities on building and sustaining partnerships and coalitions to improve health and well-being. I also enjoyed writing and had authored or co-authored many professional articles and book chapters, as well a textbook, Coalitions and Partnerships in Community Health. I decided to start my own consulting group to be able to do more of both . . . and Coalitions Work was born.
That was more than 5 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I just figure that life, like a coalition, is supposed to be an adventure. And it has been.
Posted on 14 Aug 2013
Well, Summer usually follows Spring, except that it should happen in the same year! I have been so remiss in continuing my blog this past year and for that I apologize! HOWEVER, I have been busy writing. In fact, I’m happy to announce that I just submitted my second book to the design team and it should be available this Fall! The book is called Ignite! Getting Your Community Coalition “Fired Up” for Change. It’s a resource for community volunteers and practitioners who are working with communities to change policies, systems and environments that will make their communities safer, healthier and more enjoyable places in which to live, work, learn, play and pray. More on Ignite! as soon as it is available.
Summer is a time of maturing and ripening. Fruits and vegetables are abundant. Flowers bloom. The summer sun heats our ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and oceans. Even people take on a healthy glow.
Summer usually is a quieter time for coalitions. People take vacations from work and school, spend more time with their families and friends and generally try to take advantage of nicer weather and time outdoors. It often is more difficult to get volunteers to spend time working on coalition initiatives. So, my advice to you is to use this time to reflect on your action plans, evaluate your progress, train your staff and leaders and pay attention to those structural parts of the coalition (bylaws, budgets and other documents) that may have been neglected during the hectic winter and spring seasons. But, get ready for the fall – a time of new beginnings. School begins again, vacations are over and your volunteers are ready to get back into a of work and play that is more predictable and planned. It;s a great time for a Summit or coalition gathering to celebrate past achievements and plan for the work to come.
As for the cabin chronicles, things are moving slowly, but surely – kind of like a coalition. We have put the insulation, wood and trim on the bones of the structure, just as you do when you flesh out your strategies. It’s really taking shape and we can see ourselves around the table, sitting by the fireplace or climbing the loft to bed. As your coalition matures, you will begin to generate that same kind of excitement. You even may be able to visualize what a healthy, safe community looks like after it benefits from the positive changes in policies, systems and environments enacted by your coalition and its partners. Here are some pictures to show where our cabin is now on its journey to completion …. Til the Autumn, Fran
Kitchen is coming along ….
Stained glass window in bathroom!
Hand and footprints of our kids & grandkids!
Posted on 24 Apr 2012
Most of us hunger for a fresh beginning – a new start. On January 1st, we may have experienced a spurt of renewal. We were full of resolutions for reforming our habits and our lives. Life would be better if we just emptied out some drawers and closets, reorganized our files, ate healthier, and sweated our way to a leaner body. Yes, in January and February, we brought our our bathroom scales, dental floss and good intentions. But, by now, well into 2012, many of us need a booster shot of renewal.
For community coalitions, Spring also is a time for renewal. A time to plant the seeds of ideas and tasks that will blossom into full fledged strategies and initiatives. For your coalition, it just might be time to …
- plan a workshop on a key obesity prevention issue, such as developing community walking & biking paths or starting a lcoal farmers’ markets
- review your website – breathe some new life into it with new prictures or content
- develop new promotional materials for online & in-person distribution
- start a blog or uplift your Facebook page
- plan an event to reward your hard working volunteers – a day at your local minor league baseball game complete with a potluck barbecue
- The opportunities for renewal are as endless as your imagination.
I also promised to keep you up-to-date on the progress of our mountain cabin, or what I will refer to as the Cabin Chronicles from now on. After a 6-week hiatus, we returned this past week to the Shenandoah Mountains to find that very little progress had occurred. Although disappointed, we tried to look on the bright side …what we discoveered was that the delay actually gave us time to rethink how we would configure the “new” protuion of the dwelling where the kitchen, bath and utilities would reside. After many new drawings, and yards of masking tape on the “floor” of the structure, we came up with a totally new design.
|The scaffolding in this photo surrounds a new chimney and fireplace to heat the cabin in winter. River rock will be installed over the concrete block to make the heating system 21st century safe and efficient, but give it a 19th century look and appeal.
This is similar to the way we renew a coalition’s infrastructure … keeping those structures that are essential for its functioning, but adding new ones to keep it fresh (such as Facebook or Twitter).
The foundation work was completed – the base supports for the front porch are visible here. The land had to be reworked again because we ran into a large rock outcropping and couldn’t get the porch level. More earth moving and delays!
Coalitions have to be flexible too – the best action plan will have to be reworked again and again as you encounter unforseen obstacles once you get started with a strategy.
This is the foundation and flooring for the kitchen, bath and back porch. We thought framing would be done by now, but were so glad that it wasn’t! Once we saw how small the space was, we knew we had to change our floor plan. A trip to the kitchen design center at Lowe’s helped us conserve space with an efficient 10-foot kitchenette.
More on the Cabin Chronicles in June or July – Keep up the very important coalition work that you’ve started in your community. Take a look at the Coalition Guides http://coalitionswork.com/resources/tools/ and the Strategic Planning Process http://coalitionswork.com/wp-content/uploads/THE-STRATEGIC-PLANNING-PROCESS.pdf tools on the Coalitions Work website.
Posted on 20 Feb 2012
Welcome to the first Coalitions Works blog! We’ve just updated our site to share new ideas, insights and tools with you. We hope these innovations expand how you think about and work with your coalitions and partnerships. We’ll publish this blog on a regular basis as new insights and ideas come our way.