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Building Partnerships between Local Health Departments and Communities: Case Studies in Capacity Building and Cultural Humility

Galen Ellis and Sheryl Walton

From Minkler, Meredith, ed., Community Organizing and Community Building for Health and Welfare, Third Edition. Copyright 2012, by Rutgers, the State University. Reprinted by permission of Rutgers University Press

The path toward effective partnerships between local health departments and communities is fraught with obstacles and sometimes seemingly insurmountable challenges. It is a journey that requires great perseverance, flexibility, humility, and caring. Success is heavily dependent on the ability of organizations and individual staff to commit to deeply examining their own personal and professional beliefs, behaviors, and assumptions about culture and relationships. There also is a critical need to document and disseminate findings about the outcomes of such efforts, since hard evidence of the effectiveness of such partnerships for health improvement and enhanced community problem solving has been difficult to uncover (Kreuter, Lezin and Young, 2000; Shortell, Zukoski, Alexander et al., 2002).