Janan Dave is the Director of Community Health at the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. The Institute convenes and engages all of the different healthcare stakeholders in New. Janan leads the Mayors Wellness Campaign where she works directly with nearly 380 mayors across New Jersey to empower them with tools, strategies and support so they can champion health and wellness in their communities.
Q. What is the biggest challenge when collaborating across sectors?
A. When we work with mayors, we start off by helping them to create a local wellness committee in the town that usually is made up of a very multi-sector team. A challenge I’ve noticed when bringing together these multi-sector partners is that there can be different agendas and priorities, especially when involving local businesses, and there can be a challenge in mediating these conflicting priorities. If you don’t have the right leadership from the beginning it’s easy for the true message of the campaign—improving the health and wellness of residents– to get lost.
Sometimes I will hear from the mayors that they lost control of the community meeting because everyone was trying to push their own agenda. All of the partners in a multi-sector collaboration have so much to offer so it’s important to share the purpose of the collaboration and keep going back to it throughout the process so it doesn’t get lost.
Q. Is there a lesson you’ve learned, or practice you’ve adopted that think others should know about?
A. In terms of collaborating, clarifying the purpose of collaborating, setting collective goals, and defining in what capacity groups will be working together is important to do early on. In our experience, the Mayors have been ideals leaders of these efforts because their main priority is in improving the community, rather than promoting a specific sector’s work.
Another lesson is that you’ll be surprised at how much different partners want to be involved in a collaboration. A lot of smaller communities feel like they can’t offer expansive programs to the community because they might not have the resources. But when we show them examples of towns who have already had success, they begin to understand what is possible. It’s amazing to see the abundance of resources that are available within communities and how much people are willing to work together if the goal benefits the community.
Q. What is something you would like to learn more about if you had the time?
A. I’d love to learn how to improve our methods of measuring and evaluating our impact. Community-based work involving promoting healthy lifestyle changes and health literacy is hard to track, because a lot of the changes happen within people’s homes. We do have a lot of process measures put in place, but it’s been difficult to quantify our impact, which makes it difficult to improve and challenging to acquire long-term funding, which is crucial to our work. I’d love to learn how to more effectively monitor our impact.