Big Impacts with Small Grants

A Message from the Director of the Center for Sharing Public Health Services

March 2019

As we approach the end of a harsh winter, at least by our standards in the Midwest, I like to reflect on the challenges that we all face in our personal and professional lives. In public health, we are used to being challenged and we can be resilient. For example, how can public health departments that lack dedicated resources, specialized expertise and staff handle complex challenges such as flu outbreaks or the rising number of people addicted to opioids? More generally, how can health departments promote overall wellness in the communities they serve when faced with limited budgets and personnel?

Many health departments have overcome challenges such as these through cross-jurisdictional sharing (CJS) initiatives. By working together across boundaries, health departments are often better able to protect and promote the health of the people they serve. At the Center for Sharing Public Health Services, we provide technical assistance and resources that support better collaboration among public health departments.

One way we collect and test tools, techniques, expertise and resources is through our Small Grants Program, which allows us to learn from public health departments as we assist them in their collaboration work. We then pass along the things we learn to you, so that you can develop or improve sharing initiatives with other health departments.

Our most recent round of small grants, which ended in late 2018, involved 10 teams from around the country. Each team received up to $10,000 to assist them in developing their CJS work. We were impressed with the tools and examples developed by this latest group of grantees and have published many of them on our website. A few examples are described below.

  • Berkshire Regional Planning Commission: This team from Massachusetts created standard operating procedures for boards of health in their region, as well as checklists to support board of health activities. One result of this initiative was that small towns involved in the initiative are now better able to track failed septic systems for follow-up.
  • Northern Michigan Public Health Alliance: This team strategically explored options for reorganizing their multi-county alliance. Through a systematic and comprehensive process, which is reflected in their agenda, the group considered several options, such as becoming a nonprofit entity or aligning with a nonprofit organization or health plan. In the end, they decided to keep their current structure, which is a partnership governed by a memorandum of understanding. Their minutes reflect their reasons for doing so, such as maintaining authority over their work and preserving the ability to move nimbly as needs shift. The agenda and minutes provide a good example of how to consider the best path forward for a well-established multi-county partnership.
  • Montgomery Township: This team in New Jersey established a new public health nursing position that is shared between two township health departments. The position was mandated to be budget-neutral, so the grantee developed performance measures and a tool to evaluate performance and funding. As anticipated, they demonstrated the value-add of employing a single public health nurse instead of several part-time, contracted positions. Their legal sharing agreement and performance measurement spreadsheet are available on the Center’s website.

 If you are interested in participating in our Small Grants Program, the Center’s 2019 grant cycle starts soon. We will be accepting proposals later this spring. Watch your email for more details. If you haven’t signed up to receive our email alerts, do so on the front page of our website. Let’s all learn together!

If you have questions about this or other programs from the Center, please email me at phsharing@khi.org.

– Gianfranco Pezzino, Director