INSTITUTE OF HEALTH EQUITY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE RESEARCH
The human services sector serves over one in five Americans through cash benefits and direct individual, family, and community supports. In times of crisis, like the Covid pandemic, that number can grow considerably through what one of our projects identified as the sector’s infrastructure in waiting. Increasingly, the role of the human services sector itself, and in its coordination with healthcare and public health, has been recognized as crucial to promoting population health, individual well-being, and cost efficiencies. As a result, practice and policy related research, government financing and regulatory developments, and consumer and provider advocacy have sought to improve alignment across health and human services.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has previously funded Northeastern University to better understand that intersection as part of its efforts to drive whole-person care for vulnerable populations. These strategies are part of the Foundation’s ongoing pursuit of a Culture of Health that relies both upon building healthier environments and on assuring that individuals can access the full array of needed medical, economic, and social supports. A strong human services sector is critical to achieving these outcomes.
More recently it has become apparent that state governments are crucial to facilitating the viability of human services and its alignment with healthcare and public health. As a result, the RWJF funded Northeastern University to explore the role of states in achieving these outcomes. The following reports are the products of that work.
— Jean Flatley McGuire, PhD, Principal Investigator
The Urban Institute examined the implications of state governmental structures in supporting a strong human services sector and its interconnection with healthcare and public health. They found that structure matters, but in and of itself is not determinant. Their close examination of state agency structures and other state characteristics along with select case studies provide insight into the current status of the sector and strategies for improvement.
Given the considerable inter-dependency between state governments and community-based organizations in successfully delivering needed human services, Northeastern University researchers mapped and explored the statewide human services networks that exist across the country, detailing their functions and strategies through document and interview-based research and building an interactive database of the existing networks and their memberships.
Project activities uncovered the need for better understanding the perspectives of state and local public and private human service leaders. Northeastern researchers, working with the American Public Human Services Association and Social Current, conducted focus groups across the country to better detail the opportunities and challenges inherent in aligning cross-sector services to achieve whole person care. They found considerable agreement across leaders from government and community-based organizations about the ongoing importance of — and barriers to — realizing better alignment.
The role of philanthropy came into focus during the final stages of the grant and a review was conducted of current investments and strategic concerns among national foundations who are considered thought leaders in the human services sector.
What Are Human Services, and How Do State Governments Structure Them?
Statewide Networks: Advancing and Strengthening Human Services
Alignment in Provision of Human Services: Perspectives From State and Local Governmental Agencies and Community-Based Organizations
A Descriptive Study: National Philanthropic Support for Human Services and Human Services Leadership Development
Jean Flatley McGuire, PhD