How do Area Agencies on Aging Build Partnerships with Health Care Organizations?

Leslie Curry
Emily Cherlin
Adeola Ayedun
Chris Rubeo
Jane Straker
Traci L. Wilson
Amanda Brewster
Peer-Reviewed Article
January 2022


Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and other community-based organizations can take key steps to improve their capacity for cross-sector partnerships to address health-related social needs of older adults.


Cross-sector partnerships between health care and social service organizations can help to address health-related social needs. Partnerships between health care organizations and AAAs have been shown to reduce preventable utilization and costs for older adults. These partnerships can be difficult to establish due to inadequate financing, barriers to sharing data, misaligned goals, and inability to measure return on investment. This mixed methods study explored how AAAs have created and maintained partnerships with health care organizations by comparing interviews between AAAs with multiple versus few health care partners.


AAAs with multiple partners were more attentive to their external environments, more open to innovation and change, and more likely to take risks to grow and improve. These qualities supported their ability to build partnerships with health care entities. AAAs with many partners use a range of strategies and partnership development tactics in their work, including identifying dedicated planning teams, investing in data capacity, embedding AAA (or health care partner) staff in the systems of the other organization, and embracing uncertainty and accepting short-term losses. These organizational characteristics and tactics can support AAAs in understanding the pressures, operations, and perspectives of health care organizational partners that will facilitate the development of stronger partnerships.


AAAs and other community-based organizations can improve their readiness for cross-sector partnerships by becoming more open, adaptable, and willing to take risks, including through training to improve their financial acumen to manage risk. Health systems and hospitals can consider assessing potential partners based on these desired characteristics, and can support these partners in developing these capacities.

Posted to The Playbook on