Which comes first: the partnership or the tool? Reflections on the effective use of partnership tools in local health partnerships

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Sunderland, Naomi
Domalewski, Debra
Kendall, Elizabeth
Armstrong, Kylie
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2009
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This paper focuses on the use of a partnership self-evaluation tool in local health partnerships in Australia. Partnership tools are intended to be used across all phases of partnership development and are typically delivered in the form of a self-administered survey. Survey questions are designed to encourage members of local partnerships to reflect on their progress to date and, if necessary, to reorient future activities to satisfy objectives and desired outcomes. In this paper we argue that without a broader surrounding framework of partnership development and appropriate assistance in administering partnership tools, the potential benefits of self evaluation in local partnerships may be restricted. We base these comments on a study of the use of a partnership self-evaluation tool as part of a broader chronic disease initiative in 17 communities across regional Australia during 2008. Although participants reported favourable outcomes from being involved in the local partnerships, and some found the tool to be of benefit, only 8 of the 17 partnerships actually used the self-evaluation tool. The reported reasons for non-use related primarily to: (1) lack of time; (2) perceptions that it was too early to 'evaluate' the partnership; and (3) difficulty in administering the tool. These barriers to use indicate that participants may have been unaware of the potential of the tool to assist in partnership development over time. Partnership participants may require more preparation to use partnership tools in a way that can secure high quality sustainable local health partnerships.

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Australian Journal of Primary Health

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15

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4

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Biomedical and clinical sciences

Health and community services

Human society

Psychology

Health sciences

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