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Ask the AHD Expert: Communicating the Value of AHD Partnerships

Date: 3/27/2018 3:42 PM

Related Categories: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Topic: Council on Linkages, Workforce Development

Tag: Academic Health Department, Academic Health Department Learning Community, Council on Linkages, Email Newsletter Content, Partnerships, PHF E-News, Workforce Development

Bill Keck, MD, MPH, Chair, Academic Health Department Learning Community; Chair, Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice; Professor Emeritus, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Northeast Ohio Medical University
Bill Keck, MD, MPHAcademic health department (AHD) partnerships can benefit from the support of individuals within and outside the organizations involved to sustain their activities; how can we get people to buy-in to the importance of these partnerships? This fifth column in the Ask the AHD Expert series explores opportunities for communicating the value of AHD partnerships.
Question: Our AHD memorandum of understanding (MOU) will be the first one in our state. How do we convince others that it’s a big deal?
Congratulations on signing your MOU! Achieving this milestone has, I’m sure, come from a great deal of hard work developing strong relationships and sets the stage for the continued partnership building yet to come.
Perhaps one of the surest ways of convincing others of the importance of your partnership is for your partnership to produce something that’s of value to the people you are trying to convince. It’s likely that people may not be won over right away or simply by the fact that a partnership has been established. Demonstrate that your partnership works, that it achieves the purposes for which you have created the partnership, and that it offers value beyond what any one organization can achieve alone, and people will start to look to the model you have set in place and consider whether they might try it for themselves.
In addition to producing good work, generating buy-in for the value of your AHD partnership will obviously depend on people being aware of what you are doing. Communicate regularly about the projects you are undertaking and the progress you are making. Create a web presence for your partnership and keep it updated with your activities, as the Knox County AHD (TN), New River AHD (VA), and Academic Health Collaborative of Worcester (MA) have all done. This will give you an opportunity to showcase both the elements that make your AHD partnership strong and the work it is engaged in – a communications resource that you can proactively share with others, but that can also be stumbled upon by those exploring the world of AHD partnerships.
Think about the best communications mechanisms for reaching the various audiences you would like to be aware of and engaged in your activities. Brief reports posted online? Print materials shared at events? Executive summaries? Newsletters? Journal articles? Social media? Infographics? Different mechanisms – and different messages – will reach different audiences. Be strategic and focus on messages that will resonate with your audience. Also, consider sharing your successes with other groups, who can in turn become your champions and reach out to their own audiences. Is your local board of health aware of what you are working on? How about your state public health association? Bring them in and work with them to help get the word out.
As your partnership grows and evolves, be sure to document the progress you are making over time, so your successes become more visible to others and you have materials to draw on when making the case for the value of your partnership. Consider setting goals, selecting metrics to measure your success, and developing an annual report or similar resource that focuses on your AHD partnership’s activities and illustrates the impact this partnership is having for the organizations involved and the community as a whole. Significant effort goes into developing and maintaining an AHD partnership; the more people can see the benefits of this work, the more you will influence their thinking about the importance of the partnership. Celebrate your successes and invite others to share in them!
Communication is a vital part of developing and sustaining partnerships. How have you approached communicating about your AHD activities? Are there strategies that you have found worked well? Those that didn’t? Let us know in the Comments section below or by emailing Kathleen Amos at
Editor’s Note: Additional resources for building strategic communications skills are available through the Public Health Foundation, including an onsite Strategic Communications Planning Workshop and a Planning Before You Communicate Tool.

Ask the AHD Expert is a quarterly column of the Academic Health Department Learning Community. Have a question for our AHD experts? Submit your question today by email to for an opportunity to be featured in next quarter’s column! For more information about the AHD Learning Community or the Ask the AHD Expert column, please visit or contact Kathleen Amos at


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