Partnering for health: collaborative leadership between a community health center and the YWCA central Massachusetts

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Family Medicine and Community Health

Publication Date


Document Type



Academic Medical Centers; Adult; Ambulatory Care Facilities; Community Health Services; *Exercise; Female; Health Services Accessibility; Humans; Interinstitutional Relations; Male; Massachusetts; Middle Aged


Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Preventive Medicine | Primary Care


BACKGROUND: A collaborative partnership among community-based organizations (CBOs)-a community-health center, a YWCA, and 2 academic health centers-developed and implemented open access to physical activity for health center patients.

OBJECTIVE: To describe partnership approach taken by 2 CBOs; determine staffs' views of this unique partnership, highlight aspects of the partnership that contributed to its success, identify challenges and mechanisms for overcoming them, and note lessons learned. Assess health center patients' use of YWCA facility.

METHODS: Usage data were obtained from YWCA records. Staff were interviewed using primarily open-ended questions. Inductive approach was used to analyze qualitative data.

RESULTS: The approach to partnership was largely organic, without formal working documents; nevertheless, the partnership reflected the organizations' missions. Over 4 years, 1134 health center patients made more than 23 000 visits to the YWCA. Responses of health center staff and provider interviewees about partnership processes sorted into the following categories: partnership description and results, partnership benefits, challenges, lessons learned, and advice to other CBOs. YWCA staff interviewee responses reflected the categories: staffing, clientele, and public face. Comments also included challenges, lessons learned, and advice to other YWCAs.

CONCLUSIONS: This partnership achieved notable successes largely because (a) it formed to serve a specific purpose that met both agencies' goals, (b) leaders made sustained commitments, and (c) it managed conflict. The partnership has taken on new projects over time; new ideas for improving access and service to underserved patients continue to emerge. Interorganizational trust and allegiance have been key to addressing challenges; nevertheless, the organic nature of the partnership's origins and the challenges of success have meant that the partnership has restructured its agreement and, to avoid being overwhelmed, limited new patient use.

DOI of Published Version



J Public Health Manag Pract. 2012 May-Jun;18(3):279-87. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of public health management and practice : JPHMP

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID