Here at the New England Alliance for Children’s Health (NEACH), an initiative of Community Catalyst, we have long focused on regional coalition-building. It’s been our experience, since NEACH began back in 2006, that fostering new relationships within and among the six New England states has played a vital role in advancing children’s health policy. And whenever possible, we’ve worked to engage constituencies that — at first glance — might not seem to be natural partners for child health advocates because we believe that diverse stakeholders can often find common ground on policy issues related to children’s health.

As part of this work, we are pleased to announce the release of our new publication entitled Investing in Our Future: New England Business Leaders’ Views on Children’s Health Advocacy. It presents findings from a series of six focus group discussions held in 2008 with New England business leaders about their perspectives on children’s health and their interest in public policies that could improve health outcomes for children. We engaged the New England Council, a well-respected business association, as a partner in this project to help facilitate discussions with selected regional business leaders.

Key findings from the report are as follows:

— Though many business leaders view children’s health as far removed from their everyday activities, they understand that children’s health status impacts the workforce, and therefore, directly impacts their businesses. — The business community representatives are supportive of children’s health care initiatives associated with preventing illness and fostering healthy behaviors. — The represented businesses perceive our health care system as dysfunctional and irrational and are somewhat skeptical of public health insurance programs’ objectives and results. — Most of the represented businesses are not willing to pay additional taxes to finance an expansion of health insurance coverage or finance children’s health care in general. — The business community representatives would like to see more evidence of a connection between health insurance status and health outcomes for children. — When judging the success or value of children’s health programs, these business leaders focus on specific and measurable outcomes. — Most of the businesses represented believe health care consumers should bear at least some fraction of the cost burden of their coverage.

Of course, it’s important to recognize that these findings illustrate both differences and commonalities between child health advocates and business leaders. However, by educating children’s health advocates about business leaders’ viewpoints on children’s health policy issues, our hope is that this publication will further the ultimate goal of helping business leaders and children’s health advocates to establish productive relationships that will benefit all of our children.

— Patrick M. Tigue, Children’s Health Care Coordinator New England Alliance for Children’s Health