Introduction: In El Paso County, TX, a local tobacco coalition is working in partnership with the American Heart Associations (AHA) Heart Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program to focus efforts on aligning local activities with the new, statewide Tobacco-21 policy. As coalitions have been on the forefront of spearheading policy implementation efforts, understanding and quantifying coalition dynamics is necessary to increase collaboration and leverage resources. The purpose of this study is to highlight the findings of a baseline Interorganizational Network (ION) analysis of a tobacco coalition in El Paso County, TX in order to determine current levels of collaboration between organizations and strength of relationships.
Hypothesis: We assessed the hypothesis that by using ION analysis, we can characterize relationships between organizations, identify organizations that are working in silos, and leverage ties between organizations to implement new, tobacco control initiatives that support the Tobacco-21 policy.
Methods: Evaluators from Texas A&M University worked in conjunction with the AHA to conduct an ION survey that assessed information sharing and joint planning of organizations involved in the tobacco coalition (n=18). Using UCINET network analysis software, density and centrality scores at the network-level were calculated. Network diagrams were then developed to depict relationships among partners using Gephi visualization software.
Results: Network collaboration related to information sharing had a network density score of 0.340 (SD=0.474) while joint planning had a network density score of 0.297 (SD=0.457). The centralization index for information sharing was 0.055 and 0.0729 for joint planning with the coalition as the most central for both domains.
Conclusion: This study shows how determination of organizational relationships within a coalition can be leveraged for strategic planning. Density measures were useful to understand the connectedness of the network, and centrality measures at the network-level were helpful in determining network structure. In conclusion, results from this study informed program implementers on how to better foster collaboration among organizations. Subsequent iterations of the survey will allow for documentation of changes in the strength of relationships over the project period.