Community health coalitions in context: associations between geographic context, member type and length of membership with coalition functions.Health Educ Res. 2014 Oct; 29(5):715-29.HE
The coalition literature recognizes context (geography, demographics and history) as a variable of interest, yet few coalition evaluation studies have focused on it. This study explores the association between geographic context and structures (e.g. member type) with functional characteristics (e.g. decision making or levels of conflict) in a statewide system of community health councils (coalitions). The study was part of a multiyear, statewide evaluation of New Mexico's health councils' contributions to systems-level changes. We adapted the Coalition Self-Assessment Survey (CSAS) for all county health council members and paid council coordinators. Both multilevel univariate and multivariate procedures were used to compare index scores, summaries of CSAS questions used to characterize council functions, with selected demographic variables and region. Member type was associated with decision making and policy capacity; paid staff expressed higher levels of agreement than voting members for both items. Length of membership was associated with decision making, positive leadership and shared vision. Results indicated that geographic context was significantly associated with many functional characteristics. The study highlights the idea that geographic context may influence coalition functioning. Understanding how geographic context influences coalition planning and actions may help explain differences among coalitions that on the surface share common organizational characteristics and external goals.