In the winter of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health invited Well-Ahead Louisiana Tobacco Cessation and Prevention to participate in a Sustainability assessment and planning process. This opportunity came at a pivotal point for Well-Ahead, just as the Louisiana team was beginning their 2016 statewide tobacco control strategic planning process. Although the team was unsure of what to expect in terms of specific outcomes, they saw potential for the Sustainability Workshop to support this process and hoped to use sustainability and strategic planning to engage stakeholders throughout the state. The Well-Ahead team was also concerned that previous understaffing may have weakened partners’ confidence in the program and was enthusiastic about the opportunity to rebuild their partnerships.
After the Louisiana Team completed the Program Sustainability Assessment Tool to evaluate Louisiana’s comprehensive statewide tobacco control efforts, stakeholders from the strategic planning group gathered, along with facilitators from the Center for Public Health Systems Science, to discuss results and create a sustainability action plan. The group’s recent work on strategic planning informed their sustainability discussion by highlighting the importance of improving coordination among stakeholders with shared goals. The team developed a partnership-focused sustainability action plan and created a survey to gather information from stakeholders on their organizations’ activities, message dissemination, and gaps in services. Louisiana would use the results to identify duplicative efforts and help streamline resources for advancing the state’s tobacco control goals. According to Tobacco Cessation and Prevention Manager Porsha Vallo,
The Sustainability Action Planning Workshop and its deliverables helped to shape the next steps for the Strategic Planning Group. Meeting the deliverables meant that we were working intentionally toward learning more about each other and working across organizations to ensure the deliverables were carried out. As a direct result, we were able to identify gaps and opportunities for collaboration, in order to streamline work and advance tobacco control efforts across all organizations.
The Sustainability process helped Louisiana adopt a more unified approach to their comprehensive statewide tobacco control efforts, even inspiring the planning team to transform the Strategic Planning Group into a formal coalition, now known as the “Louisiana Tobacco Coalition.” The alignment of the sustainability and strategic planning activities was critical; by coordinating the two processes, the team was able to develop two complementary plans and spearhead the formation of the coalition. The Louisiana team celebrated the start of the Coalition’s fourth year in April 2019 and continues to recognize sustainability as an ongoing process. Well-Ahead reassessed their sustainability capacity in 2018 and has since held a second workshop to create a new plan incorporating program changes and building on previous successes.