Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Other Person’s Shoes

I am always saying in meetings and presentations that Coalitions exist to fill the gaps between the public and private sectors and between organizations. For some people this may sound very obscure or esoteric. Gaps between the public and private sector? Between organizations? What the heck does that mean?

Well in immunizations it means this. Vaccines are developed and manufactured by the private sector. They are regulated, recommended, promoted and to a large part distributed in the public sector. There are different organizations responsible for making the vaccines, administering them, making sure they are effective and safe, and making sure everyone is getting them. Unfortunately, these different organizations do not always talk to each other. They do not always have meetings together on a regular basis. They do not always understand the environment the other organization is in. There is information that each has that will benefit the others. That is where Coalitions come in.

One the main strengths of immunization coalitions are to have people from diverse backgrounds and diverse incentives sitting around the table talking to each other. In immunization we know that neither diseases nor patients stay in the confines of one organization. They move around and so therefore it requires a broader approach to solving problems.

At any given San Francisco Immunization Coalition Committee Meeting (we have four committees) you may have a public health nurse, a private pediatrician, a school health worker, a pharmaceutical representative, a community clinic manager, a health plan representative, a Coalition Director (me), a community college instructor, a government health official (State and/or local), and a regular community citizen all sharing information about immunization and finding new ways to prevent disease. This is not the only strength of Coalitions but it is a facet that should not be overlooked. Any economist (I am one myself) will tell you that a lack of information by members is the biggest impediment to building a perfect system/society. Getting diverse groups to share information is a powerful step in finding solutions to huge problems in immunization and in society. Successful Coalitions recognize this and act as a conduit for the flow of this information.

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