Key Points

Foundations and other entities have increasingly funded coaching and technical assistance to support multisector community partnerships to promote health and health equity. However, much remains to be learned about how coaching can best support these partnerships.

As part of its efforts to build a culture in which everyone in the United States has a fair opportunity to be healthy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnered with the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute to provide structured coaching to strengthen the capacities of community partnerships. The foundation contracted with Mathematica to evaluate the coaching program, focusing on whether it had an effect on strengthening the capacity of partnerships to prioritize policy, systems, and environmental changes; promote health equity; and increase community engagement.

The evaluation found that the coaching program provided valuable support to many partnerships, helping some focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes. Integrating health equity and community engagement into a general health-promotion coaching model might be best suited for partnerships just beginning to develop a strategy to improve health equity. Partnerships that already have a strong understanding of health equity might benefit most from intensive, specialized technical assistance to address inequities. Some partnerships reported that coaching shifted their thinking around community engagement, but none reported increasing engagement as a result of coaching.

To advance health equity and engage communities, we propose that funders consider investing in partnerships that already prioritize leadership of community members most affected by inequities. Specialized technical assistance may help leaders not affected by inequities to think critically about their community’s history and structures of power, ongoing racial and power dynamics, and their own personal stories and levels of privilege.

Open Access