Building a Culture of Collaboration Within Multilevel Systems
In our line of work, positive outcomes depend on the careful synergy of multiple systems. Because children’s health is influenced by a great many factors, simultaneously engaging systems at the community, city, state and government level is essential for significant change.
All too often we discover that two state agencies can be closely aligned on their goal, but working independently to reach it. When we work collaboratively instead, we’re able to pool, leverage and reinforce our resources for a common aim—a major benefit when such resources are often extremely limited.
A new e-course—NICHQ’s Essentials of Collaboration—provides strategies for healthy collaboration. One of the first steps is setting a clear aim, so that participants in an improvement project at all system levels know what they are working toward and understand their role in creating change. As we work to unite everyone around a common aim, team leaders should attempt to gain a complete picture of the context under which participants are currently working. Once they have a firm grasp on the specific assets and limitations of each system, leaders can provide teams with the right tools and resources to reach their goal.
When it comes to understanding the nuances of how a system operates, active listening can be incredibly powerful. Active listening is not only helpful in fostering the robust relationships at the heart of healthy collaboration; it may also shed light on the historical context of each system (as well as the areas where various systems intersect). Active listening can also bring about a shift in perspective that allows team leaders to guide collaboration more effectively. Rather than asking how to get participants fully engaged in the improvement process, for instance, we might frame the question as: “What do team members need from us so that they can fulfill their goals?” This subtle distinction helps in adopting a collaborative mindset.
Another key aspect of cultivating healthy collaboration is tuning into each participant’s unique strengths and weaknesses. Pinpointing weak spots can help you anticipate the necessary resources to support the team, while identifying and honoring a team member’s strengths can boost motivation and give projects fuel for long-lasting change. By capitalizing on people’s strengths, you grant them the opportunity to do what they most enjoy. And when people quickly see results from their work, they’re usually inspired to stay committed and even step up their efforts.
Social-Emotional Health is Often Invisible, But Needs Support Too
Here, NICHQ Project Director Colleen Murphy, MSMOB, shares how a classroom shooting changed her daughter's life and inspired Murphy to improve children's health systems.
Getting My Son the Support He Needed Shouldn’t Have Been this Hard
When NICHQ's Senior Director of Programs thought her son might have a disability, she realized that health systems can leave mothers feeling powerless to help their children. It's one of the reasons she's so committed to their improvement.
Helping Health Plans Improve Asthma Outcomes
Asthma currently affects over six million children across the U.S., making it one of the most widespread chronic childhood diseases. And while successful treatments exist, too many children still end up in the emergency room fighting to breathe. Working with health plans can change those numbers by ensuring that preventative treatments and services help more children. Here's how one state is engaging health plans to improve asthma outcomes.
Starting School Prepared Should Be a Right, Not a Privilege
In theory, everyone should start school on equal footing. But the reality is very different for many children across the country. Even before birth, social determinants of health such as parental income and maternal education affect a child's developmental health. Changing this means building stronger systems that support and empower families so all children can achieve kindergarten readiness.
Our Systems Meant to Help Are Hurting Black Families
When does mandated reporting hurt rather than improve health outcomes? Erin Cloud, who’s spent the past seven years advocating for parents in the child welfare system, shares a thought provoking story about what happens when biased reporting causes unintentional harm. Here, we shine a spotlight on this troubling example of when systems meant to support children’s health end up failing black mothers and children.
How Do We Address Safe Sleep Disparities? Start by Building Trust
Healthy babies shouldn’t die in their sleep. But, despite decades of trying to reduce the number of sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID) they still persist. And most often, their persistence affects families of color. In this article, Founder of the Global Infant Safe Sleep Center, Stacy Scott, shares ideas on how we can best address this alarming lack of equity and reduce sleep-related deaths across all populations.