Institute 2010: The Business Case and Sustainability Workshop

Guest Blogger, Lisa Houston Break Free Alliance


The Business Case and Sustainability

Linking the Business Case for Chronic Disease Program and Policy Sustainability kicked off with an overview of sustainability. Definitions of sustainability differ between organizations and programs, but     generally instructors Denise Cyzman (National Association of Chronic Disease Directors) and Jay Desai (Minnesota Department of Health) emphasized that you don’t want to see all of your hard work and the resulting community health benefits dependent upon political whimsy. In putting together a sustainability plan, here are some of the key questions they posed:

1. Who would be important organizations and/or people to consider when planning for your program or policy?

2. What would be their initial motivation for involvement in the program or policy? What about their sustainable (i.e. long-term) motivation?

3. What could they contribute? What specific role would they have?

4. How could you get them interested in your specific program or policy?

5. Who are your two or three key strategic partners and why?

One of the factors important to establishing sustainability is making the business case for any given program or policy. Your program/policy likely saves money somewhere, and may even generate money. And of course, money isn’t the only component – there are things beyond value that your audience for the business case may value, such as being seen as progressive on matters of health. The trick is in framing your case. In a nutshell, you need to identify your target audience, explain the need, determine and demonstrate the value, evaluate progress and re-assess your business case.  Of course, you may have several different audiences, so here are some examples from different perspectives:

  • • Internal business perspective: Translate customer needs into products or services; meet organizational mission and goals; demonstrate commitment to prevention, self-management and    quality care
  • • Regulatory perspective: Meet local, state or federal regulatory requirements; conditions for reimbursement from 3rd party payers
  • • Community perspective: Shape organizational image in community; create image of quality provider; meet accreditation standards; enhance community welfare as a whole
  • • Innovation and learning perspective: Improvements in processes of care and health outcomes; improve strategic positioning; effects on employee satisfaction, absenteeism, presenteeism
  • • Customer perspective: Identify the customer and understand their perspective; determine program benefits that match their perspective.

Then comes the evaluation – figuring out if your policy or program continues to meet community need and if it’s sustainable in the long run.

Take-away: A sustainability plan with a business case probably cannot be whipped up overnight, but the two definitely provide at least one path to sustainability at a time when that word has saturated calls for proposals.


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