Reflections on the role of partnerships in public health policy and practice

2017-02-09T03:07:50Z (GMT) by Gibson, Katharine
This thesis reports on a portfolio of work undertaken during the Doctor of Public Health degree program. Outputs, including official reports, internal reports and peer-reviewed published papers from field based practice placements form the foundation of the portfolio, which is further underpinned by an overall theoretical theme - ‘Reflections on the role of partnerships in public health policy and practice’. This thesis contributes to the knowledge and understanding of the field of public health through the six field work placements. In completing the thesis and reflecting on the fieldwork, partnership was identified as an important governance instrument for addressing public health policy and practice. Partnership is a model of governance that is increasingly used by public health practitioners to manage the inter-organisational relationships between different stakeholders that seek to improve population health outcomes. Many complex health and social issues contribute to the rising prevalence of chronic disease and health inequalities. Efforts to address these issues require actions from a diverse range of communities and sectors to develop policy, implement programs, and advocate for political interest and resources. At the same time organisations are constrained by their individual mandates and the need to operate efficiently and manage increasing demand. Partnership is seen as a mechanism to pool skills, provide integrated programs that serve the needs of users, empower a broader range of stakeholders and address the determinants of health. The preconditions for partnership, which explain why organisations work together, are well articulated in the literature and supported by a range of theoretical perspectives. This thesis suggests that the field of public health could benefit from a renewed focus on identifying the preconditions for working in partnership. There is also a large body of literature dedicated to understanding the process of collaboration, including the importance of clear rules and responsibilities, a culture of trust and mutual commitment, and shared accountability. The outcomes of working in partnership are less well understood and while synergy has been identified as a proximal outcome that can be evaluated before health outcomes manifest, further research on collaboration and partnership effectiveness under different conditions is required.