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Am J Prev Med. 2006 Apr;30(4):351-61.

What explains community coalition effectiveness?: a review of the literature.

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  • 1Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA. rzakocs@bu.edu


Community coalitions have become popular vehicles for promoting health. Which factors make coalitions effective, however, is unclear. The study's aim was to identify coalition-building factors related to indicators of coalition effectiveness through a review of the empirical literature. Published articles from 1980 to 2004 that empirically examined the relationships among coalition-building factors and indicators of coalition effectiveness were reviewed. Two indicators of coalition effectiveness were examined: coalition functioning and community-wide changes. A two-phase strategy was employed to identify articles by reviewing citations from previous literature reviews and then searching electronic reference databases. A total of 1168 non-mutually exclusive citations were identified, their abstracts reviewed, and 145 unique full articles were retrieved. The review yielded 26 studies that met the selection criteria. Collectively, these studies assessed 26 indicators of coalition effectiveness, with 19 indicators (73%) measuring coalition functioning, and only two indicators (7%) measuring changes in rates of community-wide health behaviors. The 26 studies identified 55 coalition-building factors that were associated with indicators of coalition effectiveness. Six coalition-building factors were found to be associated with indicators of effectiveness in five or more studies: formalization of rules/procedures, leadership style, member participation, membership diversity, agency collaboration, and group cohesion. However, caution is warranted when drawing conclusions about these associations due to the wide variations in indicators of coalition effectiveness and coalition-building factors examined across relatively few studies, discrepancies in how these variables were measured, and the studies' reliance on cross-sectional designs.

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