Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. James Emshoff - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Marci Culley

Third Advisor

Dr. John Peterson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Sarah Cook

Fifth Advisor

Dr. Bethann Cottrell


Community coalitions are prime vehicles for fostering social support within communities and prominent mechanisms for building local capacities to address health and social concerns. However, sustaining these entities beyond initial efforts and funding is difficult. What has kept members participating in and committed to the work of the Clarkston (Georgia) Health Collaborative, a community coalition, nearly 15 years after its inception? Prior research has examined several variables that predict overall participation and commitment in community-based coalitions, however, the literature has largely focused on coalitions that are topic driven (e.g., diabetes, gang violence, drugs, or obesity). These studies fail to identify those factors that are important in sustaining efforts in non-topic-based (i.e., there is no singular focus, but topics are community generated and vary), non-grant-funded community coalitions. This cross-sectional study examines member engagement as a sustaining factor of coalitions. Members of the Clarkston Health Collaborative (N = 93), ages 21 to 70 years and representing various sectors of the community, as well as racial and ethnic backgrounds, were surveyed as part of a coalition assessment in 2007 and 2008 in Clarkston, Georgia. Predictors that influence their participation and commitment, key components of engagement, are analyzed. These components were: leadership, social resources, sense of community, empowerment, member satisfaction, communication, decision making, and participation benefits. Based on the review of the literature, specific mediating relationships are hypothesized. A mixed-methods approach is employed, including path analysis that tests how well process models fit the coalition data, as well as key informant interviews by coalition members. Toward a conceptual model of engagement, findings supported the hypothesis that effective leadership increases member participation through increased social resources. Findings also supported the hypotheses that shared decision making and effective leadership increases member commitment through increased member satisfaction. Clear communication and sense of community were also factors that contributed to increased participation and commitment. These findings have implications for intervention, policy, and research, including a need for interventions that recognize the contexts of influence that foster member engagement in community-based coalitions. In addition, insight is gained for the planning and implementation of other coalitions to help ensure coalition sustainability.