immediately include agreement on a mission statement with goals and objectives, clarification of roles and relationships, definition of a decision-making process, development of an organizational structure, the frequency and length of meetings, and the benefits for each member of the coalition (Feighery and Rogers, 1990).
The benefits of successful collaborative efforts and partnerships are many. Collaborations can reduce disparity in access to information, resources, and skills; increase public health’s understanding of community needs and assets; and lead to the development of a process for continual improvement in public policy and health systems (Berkowitz, 2000). Additional benefits include the freedom to become involved in new issues without bearing sole responsibility for managing or developing those issues; developing widespread public support for issues, actions, or unmet needs; developing a critical mass for action; minimizing duplication of effort and services; mobilizing a broad array of talents, resources, and approaches to problem solving; providing a mechanism for recruiting participants with diverse backgrounds and beliefs; and having flexibility in providing an opportunity to exploit new resources in changing situations (Butterfoss et al., 1993; Green et al., 2001).
Academia engages in service to the community in many ways. One approach to service is through various centers and institutes. For example, in 2002 the University of Washington’s Center for Ecogenetics and Environmental Health conducted a town meeting to engage in discussions with the community on racial disparity, poverty, and pollution. Activities brought together researchers, legislators, and community members to discuss the health risks of pesticides to agricultural workers and their families, contamination of seafood by marine toxins and chemical pollutants, hazardous waste sites, culturally appropriate research strategies, and links between indoor and outdoor air pollution and asthma. These discussions led to a number of projects designed to address community-identified concerns and needs.
The three newly funded CDC Centers for Genomics and Public Health, located at the University of Michigan, University of North Carolina, and University of Washington, are another mechanism through which service to the community can be provided. Each center will develop a regional hub of expertise for the use of genetic information to improve health and prevent disease. In addition to contributing to the knowledge base on genomics and public health and providing training for the public health workforce, the centers are to provide technical assistance to regional, state, and local public health organizations. “With this collaborative approach, CDC hopes to