Case Studies

Leveraging Strategic Partnerships & Innovation

A Boy Practices Brushing Teeth on a Stuffed Animal at a Special Smiles Healthy Athletes Event at the 2015 World Summer Games in Los Angeles

The Problem

In many communities around the nation, families who care for children with intellectual disabilities face an unmet need. Even though there might be an abundance of available resources within the community to help those families, if no dedicated space exists – either virtual or physical – where families, advocates and other stakeholders can come together to share and explore those resources, there will be fewer opportunities for cross-sector partnership-building, resource-sharing and innovation.


Cross-sector partnership-building has long been central to public health success and progress and remains a key competency as practitioners increasingly turn upstream to tackle the social determinants of health. In fact, some of the greatest achievements in public health history — from tobacco control to immunization to fluoridation — have been rooted in the field’s ability to engage both traditional and nontraditional partners in the pursuit of greater health for more people. In Philadelphia, public health workers are leveraging their roles as trusted community conveners and their skills at building cross-sector connections to advance health and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

About 20 years ago, in response to changes to Pennsylvania’s managed care programs, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health convened a group of stakeholders to ensure the changes wouldn’t negatively impact families who care for children with special health needs. That original convening exposed an unmet need in the community — in particular, having a space where families and advocates could come together to better serve children with special needs — and so the group decided to stick together.

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