Coalitions are a powerful tool for achieving shared objectives and strengthening advocacy. They are created in response to local opportunities or challenges, and can be used to tackle a wide range of issues. However, forming or joining a coalition also has its advantages and drawbacks. Priorities and funding opportunities have led to the formation of many community associations.
An example of forming a coalition in response to an opportunity is Healthy Maine Partnerships, which is a set of 31 associations that collaborate at the state and local levels between local schools, community organizations, hospitals, businesses and municipalities. This coalition was established in response to the receipt by the state of funds to liquidate tobacco. In situations where a problem affects multiple elements of the community, such as youth violence in Pryorville, a broad coalition is needed to address the issue at several different levels. Coalitions have been successful in achieving community-level change on issues such as violence prevention, physical activity among older adults, childhood asthma, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder by coordinating community efforts around a common goal.
Strategic health coalitions are usually formed around a specific health issue. For instance, the murders of several women prompted the formation of a coalition to address not only domestic violence, but the entire issue of violence against women and other related problems in the community, such as drug trafficking and the lack of court response capacity. A coalition can also be an effective means of achieving a coordinated approach to reducing risk factors (e.g., physical inactivity, poor nutrition, smoking) that will have an impact on chronic diseases across all ages and ethnic groups in the United States. Through this community coalition and this surveillance analysis, important changes in the health and well-being of the population are catalyzed.
Another example of a successful broad-based coalition is the participation of the Wellness Council in the local Accountable Care Community (ACC) initiative. This coalition is led by the Center for Community Health Improvement at the Austen Institute for Bioinnovation in Akron. Unlike other community coalitions that focus on a single health problem, this coalition has a broader approach with the goal of changing the entire spectrum of health determinants. When forming a coalition, it is important to include key people and groups whose representation is essential.
For example, a new study could alert the community to the fact that African-American men are at very high risk of heart disease, and community health providers could respond to that risk by forming a coalition to provide information, testing and treatment to that population. Forming coalitions can be beneficial for communities as they provide an opportunity for collaboration between different stakeholders. However, it is important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages before deciding whether or not to form or join one. The benefits include increased access to resources, increased visibility for advocacy efforts, increased capacity for collective action, and improved coordination between stakeholders. On the other hand, there are also drawbacks such as potential conflicts between stakeholders due to different interests or goals, difficulty in maintaining momentum over time due to lack of resources or commitment from members, and difficulty in reaching consensus on decisions.