The Evolution of Public Health-Hospital Collaboration in the United States


Collaboration refers to relationships in which two or more independent parties voluntarily decide to work together to address a common purpose. Collaborative arrangements take many forms, from informal, nonbinding agreements for information sharing on topics of mutual interest to formal alliances that entail the creation of new organizational entities, substantial financial investments, and long-term legal commitments.

In the health field, the spectrum of collaborative endeavors is wide and diverse. An important segment of this spectrum consists of collaborative arrangements among public health agencies, hospitals, and other parties (e.g., school systems and businesses) that unite to address one or more health issues and improve the culture of health in their communities. Evidence suggests that such collaborative partnerships can have beneficial collective impact. Our work focuses on public health–health care collaboration and not the broader issue of public health–health care integration.

The history of collaboration between the public health and hospital sectors is mixed at best; although close, mutually beneficial partnerships exist in some U.S. communities, they are not prevalent across the United States. We offer our perspective on past collaboration between the public health and hospital sectors, review emerging patterns, and discuss future prospects for these patterns.

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Published in Public Health Reports, v. 131, issue 4.

© 2016 Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health

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