Shared Services Coordination for Public Health Capacity-Building

Client NorthEast Public Health Alliance

Practice Area Coalition Management & Building

The Story of the NorthEast Public Health Alliance

The NorthEast Public Health Alliance (NEPHA) is a Shared Services Arrangement (SSA) funded by the Public Health Excellence (PHE) grant program from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). The Alliance was established in 2021 and comprises the Health Departments of Billerica, Chelmsford, Tewksbury, and Tyngsborough. All four communities are located in Middlesex County and serve a combined population of 120,426 residents.

Since NEPHA’s inception, it has worked to develop and expand regional programming, leverage shared resources, and enhance its public health workforce capacity across communities. The collective envisions a thriving, regional community where all residents, visitors, and businesses live healthy, fulfilling lives and have equitable opportunities and resources, leading to optimal health and social-emotional well-being.

The Challenge of Formalizing and Expanding Regional Services

The objective of the PHE grant program is to strengthen, and ultimately standardize, public health capacity and service delivery throughout Massachusetts through shared services arrangements. Despite previous years of informal collaboration within other regional organizations, the communities of the NorthEast Public Health Alliance were relatively new to working together as part of a SSA. Further, the four NEPHA communities vary significantly in terms of community size, available resources, staffing capacity, and departmental-responsibilities. These differences presented obstacles to determining the Alliance’s governance structure, capacity, and developing work plans.  

How BME Strategies Responded

NEPHA selected BME Strategies to provide shared services coordination, determine coalition processes, and facilitate the expansion of regional programs. The BME Strategies’ team established a cadence for monthly meetings to develop the Alliance’s governance structure and confirm processes, designed regional initiatives for service expansion and work plan development, and continuously refined internal processes to minimize the administrative burden on health departments. 

The Results

Through discussions and previous assessment results, NEPHA and BME Strategies have identified areas of focus for programmatic planning, including enhancing inspectional consistency, expanding regional public health nursing services, and surfacing opportunities for workforce development.

Though the work of coalition building is a continuous project, below are examples of the work we’ve done with NEPHA:

Though the work of coalition building is a continuous project, below is a brief summary of projects completed during Fiscal Year 2023.

  • Successful execution of an intermunicipal agreement (IMA) to solidify NEPHA’s current organizational commitment and structure
  • Conducted a workforce assessment of health department staff in the region to identify gaps in training and credentialing.
  • Facilitated the interview and hiring process for the Regional Inspector and Regional Public Health Nurse.
  • Developed an onboarding guide and role-specific work plan for the Regional Inspector and Regional Public Health Nurse, including clear, defined deliverables, specific measures of success for each onboarding activity, and resources to help new staff learn more about NEPHA as a region.
  • Supported regional positions with relationship-building and identifying and procuring resources to expand public health services.
  • Successful execution of shared inspectional software agreements.
  • Designed and published the NorthEast Public Health Alliance website to promote the Alliance’s ongoing work and achievements.

Overall Impact Statement

BME Strategies provided the NorthEast Public Health Alliance with the expertise and reliability required to establish and sustain a high-functioning shared services arrangement to improve and expand public health services across the region.