How do you effectively identify partners/collaborators in order to get access to data/their data?

How do you effectively identify partners/collaborators in order to get access to data/their data?

I asked Jill Heins-Nesvold from the American Lung Association of Minnesota for tips on how a program should identify partners and how to access their data: 

First, explain how their data will be beneficial to you, others in the community, and to them.  You also need to clarify if they want to remain anonymous or be publically recognized.  The second thing you need to do is ASK.  I believe 95% of potential data requests end in "I don't think they would be willing to share" or "I don't know how to ask".  In over 20 years, I have only had one partner decline my request for access to their data (I haven't given up - I am still working on that one).  If you don't ask, the answer will always be NO.

Tell us, how does your program effectively identify partners and access data?

I have about 30 community partners for our Niagara County Healthy Neighborhoods Program.  I feel that every organization that I have contact with has people who could use our services or our expertise in assisting others in environmental health concerns.  Even if our programs reach out to different audiences, there are always people who need asthma information and relief products. 

I get our name and services out at health fairs, professional meetings and through community networking.  I make sure that I am available as a speaker to community groups, block clubs, the universities, grade schools and civic organizations.  All of these places create contacts and every contact has information.

Most health organizations will not share specific details regarding statistics, but they will call me and refer their asthmatic patients (with the patient's permission) so that we can provide outreach services to that person or family.  Insurance company member services, respiratory therapists and outreach personnel use our Healthy Neighborhoods Program as a regular way to assist their patients.  I might not have access to all of the organization's data, but I will have access to a percentage that is refered to me. 

Establish a trusting, assisting relationship with agencies that can complement your agency.  Be available to speak to the staff at staff enrichment days so that they will understand your mission.  See where your mission and their's overlap.  Assist each other.

Theresa M. McCab

Supervisor & Public Health Educator

Niagara County DOH, Healthy Neighborhoods Program