Analysis of Network Characteristics and Quality of Interactions Among Public Health Collaboratives
While the benefits of collaboration have become widely accepted and the practice of collaboration is growing within the public health system, a paucity of research exists that examines factors and mechanisms related to effective collaboration between public health and their partner organizations. The purpose of this paper is to address this gap by exploring the structural and organizational characteristics of public health collaboratives. Design and Methods. Using both social network analysis and traditional statistical methods, we conduct an exploratory secondary data analysis of 11 public health collaboratives chosen from across the United States. All collaboratives are part of the PARTNER (www.partnertool.net) database. We analyze data to identify relational patterns by exploring the structure (the way that organizations connect and exchange relationships), in relation to perceptions of value and trust, explanations for varying reports of success, and factors related to outcomes. We describe the characteristics of the collaboratives, types of resource contributions, outcomes of the collaboratives, perceptions of success, and reasons for success. We found high variation and significant differences within and between these collaboratives including perceptions of success. There were significant relationships among various factors such as resource contributions, reasons cited for success, and trust and value perceived by organizations. We find that although the unique structure of each collaborative makes it challenging to identify a specific set of factors to determine when a collaborative will be successful, the organizational characteristics and interorganizational dynamics do appear to impact outcomes. We recommend a quality improvement process that suggests matching assessment to goals and developing action steps for performance improvement.