Is collaboration good for health?
5 December 2012
The Health Library in the Cochrane Building at University Hospital Wales.
A new Cochrane review, authored by staff from the Support Unit for Research Excellence (SURE) in Cardiff University's Information Services Directorate, the South East Wales Trials Unit based at Cardiff University School of Medicine, and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, has examined the benefits of partnership working between local government and local health agencies.
The review, 'Collaboration between local health and local government agencies for health improvement' looked for evidence of whether partnerships between local health and local government services improved the health of the population compared to the mainstream health and local government services operating in the area.
The authors included 16 studies (28,212 participants), of which only two were considered to be at low risk of bias. One of these studies (looking at information and support for mothers), did not identify any health improvements. The other (of housing improvements to reduce asthma), showed a modest improvement in some but not all asthma-related outcomes. The findings of the review demonstrate that when comparing local collaborative partnerships between health and government agencies with routine working arrangements, there is generally no difference in health outcomes.
Mala Mann, Information Specialist / Systematic Reviewer with SURE, said: "Collaboration between health and local government agencies has been considered best practice, and promoted nationally and internationally since the 1980s to improve the health of the population. However, systematically reviewing the existing studies in this area reveals that there is little evidence that this partnership working improves health outcomes, compared to usual services."
Sara Hayes, Director of Public Health at Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, explained "We found many examples of interesting studies that, sadly, failed to measure health outcomes or to evaluate their working arrangements. We are not discouraging agencies from working together locally but we stress the importance of agreeing shared outcomes and a mechanism for monitoring progress and evaluating the partnership process."
Janet Peters, Director of University Libraries, added: "The publication has received a strong Review Quality Rating from Health Evidence Canada, being rated at 10 out of a possible 10 marks for the quality of the research. The research team hopes that the findings of their systematic review will encourage further research into similar areas, to help identify more effective ways for local government and health agencies to collaborate."