The Building Blocks Collaborative: advancing a life course approach to health equity through multi-sector collaboration

Bina Patel Shrimali, Jessica Luginbuhl, Christina Malin, Rebecca Flournoy, Anita Siegel
Maternal and Child Health Journal 2014, 18 (2): 373-9
Too many children are born into poverty, often living in disinvested communities without adequate opportunities to be healthy and thrive. Two complementary frameworks-health equity and life course-propose new approaches to these challenges. Health equity strategies seek to improve community conditions that influence health. The life course perspective focuses on key developmental periods that can shift a person's trajectory over the life course, and highlights the importance of ensuring that children have supports in place that set them up for long-term success and health. Applying these frameworks, the Alameda County Public Health Department launched the Building Blocks Collaborative (BBC), a countywide multi-sector initiative to engage community partners in improving neighborhood conditions in low-income communities, with a focus on young children. A broad cross-section of stakeholders, called to action by the state of racial and economic inequities in children's health, came together to launch the BBC and develop a Bill of Rights that highlights the diverse factors that contribute to children's health. BBC partners then began working together to improve community conditions by learning and sharing ideas and strategies, and incubating new collaborative projects. Supportive health department leadership; dedicated staff; shared vision and ownership; a flexible partnership structure; and broad collective goals that build on partners' strengths and priorities have been critical to the growth of the BBC. Next steps include institutionalizing BBC projects into existing infrastructure, ongoing partner engagement, and continued project innovation-to achieve a common vision that all babies have the best start in life.

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