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Abstract

In Tennessee, health coalitions provide guidance in conducting community assessments, health improvement plans and policies and delivering of health and human services, which are considered core functions of public health. In fact, it has been postulated that these coalitions may serve as the organizational embodiment of the local public health system (LPHS). This study identifies functional characteristics of 63 Tennessee County Health Councils (CHCs), advisory councils to local and regional governmental public health agencies on broad issues of health, that contribute to its ability to operate as the primary advising entity of the LPHS. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted on 20 questions serving as proxy measures of functional characteristics. Eight functional characteristics related to structure, operations and leadership were identified. These characteristics are essential in further developing and tracking capacity and performance of health coalitions serving as an advisory and possibly decision making entity of the LPHS. This study also lays the groundwork to explore how to link coalition function with performance in order to determine characteristics that are most strongly associated with optimal performance and population health.