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Influencing a health equity agenda using a network leadership framework

Written BySume Ndumbe-EyohSume Ndumbe-Eyoh | March 12, 2015
Sume Ndumbe-Eyoh

Sume Ndumbe-Eyoh, MHSc

Senior Knowledge Translation Specialist

Sume has professional experiences in equity-focused organizational and community development and change, social justice education, HIV/AIDS prevention, research, knowledge translation, evaluation and women's rights with local, provincial and global organizations. Sume has previously contributed to teams at the Program Training and Consultation Centre of the Smoke Free Ontario Strategy, the Regional Diversity Roundtable, Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Southern African AIDS Trust and the Centre for Social Justice. Sume holds a Masters of Health Sciences in Health Promotion and Global Health from the University of Toronto.

Leadership is integral to action on the social determinants of health and health equity. This guest blog written by Erika Haney, Marty Mako and Tannisha Lambert for the alPHa-OPHA Health Equity Workgroup in Ontario describes the leadership framework used in their work.

The Health Equity Workgroup (HEWG) is a joint work group of the Association of Public Health Agencies  (alPHa) in Ontario and the Ontario Public Health Association (OPHA). The alPHa/OPHA HEWG meets on a regular basis to:

  1. promote the inclusion of activities that address SDOH within the mandate of public health units in Ontario
  2. advocate for policies at all levels of government that work to reduce social inequities in health and,
  3. support knowledge exchange related to health equity principles, competencies and promising practices in public health.

The group uses a network leadership framework (Hoppe, Reinelt, 2010) to guide its activities. Leadership networks can be intentionally created, or they can emerge from a strong need or desire among leaders to connect. The Network Leadership framework identifies 4 types of networks which are:

  • Peer leadership network
  • Organizational leadership network
  • Field-policy leadership  network
  • Collective leadership network

Some networks may fit neatly into one of these categories, and others may be hybrids of multiple categories. The HEWG is a blend of all four but is most closely aligned with a field-policy leadership network which is “a network connecting leaders who share common interests and who have a commitment to influencing a field of practice or policy.” (Hoppe, Reinelt, 2010). The OPHA undertook an evaluation study in 2014 to examine what the critical success factors were for all its workgroups. The following factors were identified:

  • Open communication within workgroups
  • Regular updates of current and emerging issues
  • Enthusiasm of workgroup members
  • Shared vision and understanding of the group’s goals with other organizations and key stakeholders
  • Diverse geographical representation
  • Diverse skill sets among members
  • Leadership from workgroup members

In addition to all of the above factors that the OPHA identified, 2 more factors were also identified that contributed to the success of the HEWG to be an effective workgroup which were:

  • Dedicated administrative support which was provided by the Association of Public Health Agencies (alPHa) , and
  • Collaboration and shared work with alPHa

For anyone who is working with health related multi professional workgroups, these critical success factors could be used to design an effective group and examine how the group is functioning. Some questions to ask:

  • What parts of the leadership network framework does your group fit in?
  • What are your critical success factors that support your group? 
  • What critical factor is missing which can improve how your group functions?


Leadership & capacity building

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