Establishing the North West Public Health Coalition

Client North West Public Health Coalition

Practice Area Coalition Management & Building

The Story of the North West Public Health Coalition

In 2021, the communities of Acton, Dracut, Lowell, and Westford entered a partnership through the Public Health Excellence (PHE) grant program funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to diversify and expand community health services more equitably through a shared services arrangement (SSA). This group became the North West Public Health (N.West) Coalition and serves a population of about 200,000 people. The Coalition’s mission is to ensure the health and well-being of those living and working in their communities by collaborating on preventative health programming, community wellness initiatives, and environmental protection. 

The Challenge of Establishing a Coalition

The Coalition knew they needed to build a foundation that could withstand contention and position the group to not lose sight of their larger mission. Although the group was committed to working together, there were vacant positions in every health department in the Coalition, and building the foundation came second to maintaining the functions of the health department. In addition to staffing shortages, there were concerns about developing the IMA, hiring and onboarding new positions, and initiating projects unfamiliar to the group. The Coalition hired BME Strategies (BME) to strategize how to overcome these challenges and help the SSA to thrive.

How BME Strategies Responded

To build the foundation of the Coalition, BME Strategies drafted an Inter-Municipal Agreement (IMA) and shepherded the group towards ratifying the IMA. After the IMA, BME Strategies led strategic discussions with the Coalition to refine their priorities and conceptualize their goals, some of which had a focus on mental health, expanding outreach, and becoming accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). BME Strategies, using their subject matter expertise, converted discussions into action by preparing job descriptions, leading the hiring process, creating training plans, and preparing for accreditation. Lowell and Westford have never engaged with the accreditation process and many of the standards are either not formally recorded or have never been implemented. Given the infancy of the process for Lowell and Westford, BME Strategies has been a critical partner in developing the processes, policies, and response plans needed for a public health department to be successfully accredited.

The Results

The culmination of efforts has led to the expansion of the N.West Coalition’s public health services and cemented its dedication to providing quality services. The IMA that BME Strategies helped ratify is the compass the Coalition uses to guide decision making and develop work plans. Plans and processes not developed before are now being documented and implemented, and these changes have been welcomed by staff. The support that BME Strategies provided to hire the first regional position, a Regional Health and Wellness Coordinator, has led dozens of events in all four communities and has affected hundreds of people. Specific deliverables that led to these high-level accomplishments include:

  • Intermunicipal Agreement
  • Coalition Work Plan
  • Interview questions and candidate scorecards
  • Training plan for Regional Health and Wellness Coordinator
  • North West Coalition website
  • Quality Improvement Plans
  • Workforce Assessment
  • Emergency Operations Plans
  • Communications Plans
  • Stakeholder Assessment and Engagement Tool
  • Branding Strategies
  • Press Releases
  • Slide decks used to present to health department staff and community partners 
  • Host Community listening sessions
  • Budget management 
  • Data repository
  • Conduct a Community Health Assessment and prepare the final report


The Coalition is expanding its footprint by growing its shared services staff to include a Regional Inspector and Regional Social Worker, as well as investing more resources into shared inspectional capacity. The N.West Coalition continues to work with BME Strategies to realize their ambitions and untap the potential of the group.

Overall Impact Statement

The impact of BME Strategies’ engagement with the N.West Coalition has benefitted not only the health departments in realizing their programmatic goals, but also the residents of these communities who are recipients of the Coalition’s high-quality public health services.