“You have to find the intersections,” says Becky Adams, DrPH, RD, LD, CDE during a recent interview about her commitment to collaboration. “Those are the areas where your interests align and goals can be accomplished.”
When it comes to getting things done in a collaborative manner, Becky’s passion and expertise are hard to match. Since the 1990s, she’s been finding partnership solutions to public health challenges in her home state of Arkansas.
It was during her early career days…when she was in clinical health…that Becky realized she could better serve her community if she could harness from others what she couldn’t do alone. “My job at the hospital carried with it certain restrictions on how we could use our resources,” Becky explains.
In order to create a diabetes support group, she forged an alliance with a community center that already had ties to the people Becky needed to reach. A local newspaper and other organizations helped with advertising, and her hospital’s cafeteria agreed to provide healthy foods. The support group took off and Becky knew she’d found one of the keys to success in nutrition work.
Today, Becky builds partnerships in every facet of her job. She holds two job titles–Partnership and Policy Director for Chronic Disease Prevention & Control and Nutrition and Physical Activity Section Chief. She says these designations afford her the opportunity to spend significant time on collaborative efforts within her state.
Look For Goals That Align, Not The Same Goals
Becky currently serves on the Central Arkansas Regional Planning Committee, where she represents the state health department and works on projects designed to enhance the quality of life for the area’s citizens. Collaborating alongside representatives from various disciplines, she finds ways to ensure the projects they are pursuing will facilitate and encourage physical activity.
“Think about the considerations that go into building a road,” says Becky. “From a public health perspective, I want new roads to have proper sidewalks, shade trees, bike lanes, good lighting, benches for resting along the way, and perhaps even a path to the park,” she explains.
As she reflects on the other committee members, she explains that the public safety representative also wants good lighting because it will help keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. The parks & recreation official will advocate for the walkway in order to encourage more visitors to the park. The economic development official wants to facilitate foot traffic to shops and restaurants along the road. And the public transportation rep brings the resources and decision-making power to get the job done.
“If I were to approach this road building project from my department’s goal of greater physical activity, other entities might not be interested because their goals are different. But because of the specific features within the goal…such as sidewalks, bike paths, and lighting…we can get buy-in,” she says. “We all speak different languages and have different bottom lines, but together we can help each other accomplish our various missions.”
Becky recently worked on the Chronic Disease Forum in Benton, Arkansas—a yearly event hosted by the state’s Chronic Disease Coordinating Council. The planners knew that including a luncheon would enhance the forum, but due to the CDC funding received by the Chronic Disease Coordinating Council, they were prohibited from purchasing or offering food. Joining forces with the American Heart Association (AHA) allowed the AHA to sponsor the luncheon and host their annual awards presentation, which attracted participants who might not otherwise attend the forum. To further encourage participation, they partnered with continuing medical education (CME) entities. “It was a win-win-win all the way around,” says Becky.
Becky’s passion for collaboration spills over into ASPHN, where she has been an active member for about 20 years. Among her many roles within the association, she has been president (twice); a liaison to the ASTHO Prevention Policy Committee for several years; a member and current co-chair of the Collaboration Committee; and a current board member.
When asked why she would undertake all of those roles in addition to her demanding workload, Becky explains, “Being part of ASPHN energizes me. I’ve learned a lot about the Frey method of collaboration, which is what we use on ASPHN’s Collaboration Committee. I’ve learned about facilitation, leadership, strategic planning, and even how to conduct a walking meeting…which is something I now share with others!”
Becky has always believed that what she does matters. Working with ASPHN affirms that belief. “Maybe because of the atmosphere and in large part because of its people, the work I do within ASPHN is rewarding, and I get much more back than what I put into it,” says Becky.
Spoken like someone with a true passion for collaboration.