.WELL MINDZ Outreach Program
The Sustained Impact of Well Mindz Programs
Most definitions of sustainability focus on the continuity of a service or program. This perspective, focusing solely on the sustainability of programs and services, may understate the full range of impacts that a program may have; and it does not explicitly describe the potential for lasting effects in the community that are distinct from a service continuing.
There are multiple ways that an initiative can impact a community long after services have been discontinued. You should begin thinking about the potential sustained impact of our program.
The sustained impact is defined as those long-term effects that may or may not be dependent on the continuation of a program. These long-term effects may go beyond the services that are put into place.
The impacts could include changes in the way that agencies work together to serve community members, cultural shifts and practice changes, changes in knowledge, attitudes, and practices of community members and providers, and policy changes, as described below:
On-going impacts of collaboration
Improved service models
Increased capacity in local systems
New policies to sustain impact
Changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors
The Sustained Impact of Programs
On-going impacts of collaboration:
Through the implementation of a new project, agencies can develop a new way of working together to serve community members; new lines of communications are established, interagency referral mechanisms
are built and the culture of collaboration in communities may be changed.
Agencies working together on a new initiative may move beyond turfism and competition to build a strong collaborative based on trust and open communication. Improved service models:
Agencies may develop and implement new practice standards that are institutionalized following the end of a grant period. For example, new programs may result in a new model for caring for those with chronic diseases, or training and employing community health workers to help patients better navigate services and effectively manage their illnesses. The opportunity to test a new model with grant funding often lays the foundation for long-term strategies to meet the health care and educational needs of communities.
THE CASE FOR Increased capacity in local systems:
Grant funds can be used to build the capacity of the local health and human service infrastructure (e.g., establishing a HIT infrastructure), develop curricula (e.g., a diabetes self-management training program that can be used by nurses or community health workers, or a physical activity program that can be used by math and science teachers in the classroom), and purchase equipment (medical and screening). These resources, once created or purchased, remain in the community and have a lasting impact.
Changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors:
Finally, a community may see impacts that are beyond services and infrastructure. As a result of our outreach program, public awareness of a health issue may increase, and cultural attitudes about certain health behaviors or illnesses may shift. Providers who received training through a program may approach their practice in a new way and recognize health issues in their patients that they were not aware of previously.
Community outreach programs may begin to change the way that a community perceives and responds to a particular health issue.
For example, a program to integrate mental health services into the primary care setting may help reduce the stigma associated with accessing mental health services and may change the perceptions and practices of primary care doctors as they relate to mental illness.
Increased capacity in local systems
New policies to sustain impact:
Well Mindz and collaborative partners may engage in local- or State-level advocacy to effect change in a policy that supports the services provided through their programs.
Planning for sustainability requires a long-term commitment to a process that starts at the beginning of grant funding and continues throughout the life of our program and partnerships. The stories presented in this primer will highlight some of the ways that rural community-based organizations have successfully sustained services and created long-term impacts resulting from programs.
• Provide a program or collaboration that makes a measurable impact.
Programs or collaborations without evidence of measurable impact are very difficult to sustain. One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of sustainability is to produce positive outcomes (e.g., changes in health status, health behaviors, utilization of services), not just outputs (e.g., number of classes held, number of pamphlets distributed, number of meetings attended).
Evidence is key to engaging influential partners, communicating your story, and justifying the need to potential future funders.