Coalitions in New York City: A Comprehensive Guide to Addressing Social Issues

The Government Relations Council (GRC), a New York nonprofit organization, meets monthly to consider and, when appropriate, comment on legislative and regulatory developments. Community coalitions are becoming increasingly popular as a way to address complex health problems at the local level. As collaborative associations of diverse members working to achieve a common goal, coalitions provide communities with the opportunity to combine and leverage resources from multiple and diverse sources. This allows for a greater breadth of reach and depth of answers to hard-to-solve problems that affect the health of communities. In addition to harnessing and increasing access to resources, coalitions offer many other advantages that make collaboration an asset for individuals, organizations, and communities.

By mobilizing relevant resources around a specific objective, coalitions provide an opportunity to coordinate services and limit the duplication of parallel or competing efforts. The inherent diversity of its members also provides ways to develop and increase public support for problems, actions, or needs, and provides individual organizations with the opportunity to impact the community on a larger scale.1,2.The Center for Community Leadership works with grassroots coalitions of neighborhood Jewish community organizations and other ethnic, civic, and religious groups throughout New York's eight-county metropolitan area. Community coalitions have the potential to catalyze important changes in the health and well-being of populations. For example, Maniace expects the tree management group's work to serve as a model for other neighborhoods, all of which will contribute to a fresher and greener New York City. Coalitions have been created in response to the discovery of foci of high rates of HIV infection in specific populations.

To be effective in coordinating a diverse multitude of services across sectors, coalitions such as these need a shared framework to conceive and act to improve community health. This coalition is led by the Center for Community Health Improvement at the Austen Institute for Bioinnovation in Akron. Coalitions have succeeded in achieving community-level change on issues as diverse as violence prevention, physical activity among older adults, childhood asthma, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder by coordinating community efforts around a common goal. As in the examples above, strategic health coalitions are usually formed around a particular health issue. The New York nonprofit organization brings together voices from the industry to represent the issues that matter most to the industry. The GRC regularly interacts with government officials, including directors of municipal and state agencies, the New York State Attorney General's Office of Charitable Organizations, and elected officials. A coalition can be an effective means of achieving a coordinated approach to promote a reduction in risk factors (e.g., physical inactivity, poor nutrition, tobacco use) that will impact chronic diseases across all ages and ethnic groups in the United States.

In its first year, the coalition achieved some great successes, such as getting the support of the president of the Parks and Recreation Committee of 26% of the City Council and the five county presidents to reach the goal of 30% by 2035. Working with partners from the Alliance of Green Roof Researchers, The Nature Conservancy has published the most comprehensive estimate of green roofs in New York City. In conclusion, coalitions are an effective way for communities to address social issues. By combining resources from multiple sources and leveraging their collective power, coalitions can create meaningful change on issues such as violence prevention, physical activity among older adults, childhood asthma, HIV infection rates, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and green roofs in New York City.

Meghan Stearnes
Meghan Stearnes

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