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Organisations spanning social services, public health and healthcare have increasingly experimented with collaboration as a tool for improving population health and reducing health disparities. While there has been progress, the results have fallen short of expectations. Reflecting on these shortcomings, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently proposed a new framework for cross-sector alignment intended to move the field towards improved outcomes. A central idea in this framework is that collaboratives will be more effective and sustainable if they develop collaborative systems in four core areas: shared purpose, governance, finance and shared data. The goal of this paper is to provide a foundation for research on the four core areas of the cross-sector alignment framework. Accordingly, this study is based on two guiding questions: (1) how are collaboratives currently implementing systems in the four core areas identified in the framework, and (2) what strategies does the literature offer for creating sustainable systems in these four areas? Given the emergent nature of research on health-oriented cross-sector collaboration and the broad research questions, we conducted a systematic scoping review including 179 relevant research papers and reports published internationally from the years 2010–2020. We identified the main contributions and coded each based on its relevance to the cross-sector alignment framework. We found that most papers focused on programme evaluations rather than theory testing, and while many strategies were offered, they tended to reflect a focus on short-term collaboration. The results also demonstrate that starting points and resource levels vary widely across individuals and organisations involved in collaborations. Accordingly, identifying and comparing distinct pathways by which different parties might pursue cross-sector alignment is an imperative for future work. More broadly, the literature is ripe with observations that could be assessed systematically to produce a firm foundation for research and practice


Originally published in:

Lanford D, Petiwala A, Landers G, Minyard K. Aligning healthcare, public health and social services: A scoping review of the role of purpose, governance, finance and data. Health Soc Care Community. 2021;00:1–16.