How does collaboration impact community health?

The great work of the KU Work Group with the Health Department as the catalyst has reminded many of us how important the health of our community is. Individually, we spend a lot of time worrying about our own health, but we don’t always think about the health and well being of the larger community.

Reviewing the results of the Assessment was not surprising to me. In fact, it was a lot like when, after getting Wii Fit over the holidays my “trainer” told me I was overweight. Many of us know what makes us individually unhealthy. What the assessment tells us is that we also know what makes us as community unhealthy as well.

For anyone who has connected in one way or another to the Kansas Leadership Center, you will also know that what makes us healthy is not about a pill, a bandaid, or the best health product. It is about the choices that we make every day. Do I walk to my next meeting or drive the block? Do I take a second serving of pasta or salad? These choices, for me, have made the difference between being overweight or normal, according to my Wii Trainer.

One issue that arose in the assessment was that while many organizations in the community refer to each other, we do not collaborate as effectively as we could. Similar to my weight loss plan, we as a community have to change our individual habits to be able to strengthen the health of the community. For human service agencies that means we need to look beyond what our organization does to make sure we are working in concert, not just alongside each other. From simple efforts, like making sure other organizations are informed about program changes (like hours), to the big efforts of coordinating AmeriCorps members, food pantries, or emergency assistance.

This kind of collaboration and engagement cannot wait. Just like my heart weakens with every day that I don’t exercise, our human service system weakens as we continue to operate in isolation. Douglas County residents are committed to many different issues and organizations. If you read carefully the assessment (available at you will find that these issues will require many different people from many different organizations to make progress. I want us to make progress. Do you?

Tagged: human services, United Way, assessment


Marilyn Hull 6 years, 5 months ago

Yep, I want to make progress, and I would take your argument one step further.

You say "we as a community have to change our individual habits to be able to strengthen the health of the community."

We also need to join together to spark collective MOVEMENTS that will change policies, systems and environments in ways that make it easier for all of us to stay healthy. A few agencies, no matter how effective, do not constitute a movement. You have to get dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people moving together toward a shared goal to create big change.

Erika Dvorske 6 years, 5 months ago

Yes, Marilyn, I agree. Creating grass roots and grass tops engagement provides great opportunities, but first we have to agree that change is necessary and that there will be some loss.

We can start with collaboration as we move in the direction of collective impact. If others are aware of this worldwide concept that is gaining great traction, you can learn more at the Stanford Social Innovation Review (

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