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Open Access Research article

What promotes sustainability in Safe Community programmes?

Cecilia Nordqvist*, Toomas Timpka and Kent Lindqvist

Author Affiliations

Linköping University, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, SE-581 83 Linköping, Sweden

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:4  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-4

Published: 8 January 2009

Abstract

Background

The theory and practice of safety promotion has traditionally focused on the safety of individuals. This study also includes systems, environments, and organizations. Safety promotion programmes are designed to support community health initiatives taking a bottom-up approach. This is a long-term and complex process. The aim of this study was to try to empirically identify factors that promote sustainability in the structures of programmes that are managed and coordinated by the local government.

Methods

Four focus group sessions with local government politicians and administrators in designated Safe Communities were conducted and analyzed using qualitative content analysis.

Results

Collaboration was found to be the basis for sustainability. Networks, enabling municipalities to exchange ideas, were reported to positively influence the programmes. Personal contacts rather than organizations themselves, determine whether collaboration is sustained. Participants reported an increase in cross-disciplinary collaboration among staff categories. Administrators and politicians were reported to collaborate well, which was perceived to speed up decision-making and thus to facilitate the programme work. Support from the politicians and the county council was seen as a prerequisite. Participants reported an increased willingness to share information between units, which, in their view, supports sustainability. A structure in which all local authorities' offices were located in close proximity to one another was considered to support collaboration. Appointing a public health coordinator responsible for the programme was seen as a way to strengthen the relational resources of the programme.

Conclusion

With a public health coordinator, the 'external' negotiating power was concentrated in one person. Also, the 'internal' programme strength increased when the coordination was based on a bureaucratic function rather than on one individual. Increased relational resources facilitated the transfer of information. A regular flow of information to policy-makers, residents, and staff was needed in order to integrate safety programmes into routines. Adopting a bottom-up approach requires that informal and ad hoc activities in information management be replaced by formalized, organizationally sanctioned routines. In contrast to injury prevention, which focuses on technical solutions, safety promotion tries to influence attitudes. Collaboration with the media was an area that could be improved.