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ReThink Health’s “Pulse Check” on Multi-Sector Partnerships

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Progress Along the Pathway for Transforming Regional Health: A Pulse Check on Multi-Sector Partnerships

Download the ReThink Health Report HERE!

ReThink Health has released its second biennial report, Progress Along the Pathway for Transforming Regional Health: A Pulse Check on Multi-Sector Partnerships. This excellent report begins with the simple notion that our greatest health challenges need to be addressed by multi-sector partnerships. Conducted in 2016, the “Pulse Check” surveyed 237 partnerships across the nation (the survey was voluntary and online). The findings fall into two categories: characteristics of multi-sector partnerships and the typical phases and patterns that groups experience.

Here is the summary of the findings about the characteristics of regional partnerships from the report:

  • Longevity: While some partnerships have existed for decades, many more have formed only recently. A majority of responding partnerships formed after 2010.
  • Location: Most respondents work at the county or multi-county level. The largest number serve areas with over a million people, and together the partnerships in this Pulse Check support regions that include about one third of the total U.S. population.
  • Priorities: All partnerships must divide their time among potential priorities, covering four major areas: health care access, quality, and/or cost; health behaviors and risk factors; social, economic and educational conditions; and physical environments. Roughly equal proportions of respondents devote a majority of time on a single dominant focus, a mix of just two or three, or a comprehensive portfolio that encompasses all four priorities.
  • Sector involvement: About half of all partnerships have active participation from 10 or more sectors. Public health and healthcare organizations are most often in the lead. However, each of the 17 sectors surveyed had a lead role in at least one partnership, and a third had joint leadership spanning three to five sectors. The least engaged sectors included unions, media, law enforcement, faith-based institutions, and health insurers.
  • Authority: Most partnerships indicate that their legitimacy, or authority to lead, comes from multiple sources, such as being champions of a widely shared vision, having recognition from leaders central to their cause, and being a trusted source of information. Less than half report that their authority comes from broad-based grassroots support.
  • Financing: Long-term financial planning is the chief challenge for nearly all partnerships. Most groups operate without a robust financial infrastructure and do not have dependable resources to deliver their full potential value. The most commonly used financing structures tend to be those that are short-term in nature. Very few partnerships prioritize financing structures that could bring greater dependability and more diversity to their portfolios.
  • Infrastructure: Most groups struggle with fragile capacity to support their work and place a high priority on gathering resources for their backbone or partnership infrastructure.

Developmental Phases

The report also describes commonly found phases that partnerships go through. It also describes common pitfalls they face, as well as practical “momentum builders” that can propel progress —for example “establish new forms of distributed leadership, with a focus on broad-based coordination to avoid placing too much power in the hands of a few key players.”


ReThink Health catalyzes changemakers to reimagine and transform health and helps leaders identify and overcome the barriers to reform at a regional level, and inspire change across the country. The report was funded by the Rippel Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


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