Policy makers and health care professionals recognize that there is much more to good health than just medical care. Achieving healthy families and communities often requires us to address housing, social services, transportation, and other “social determinants of health.” For that to happen, there must be collaboration between managers in different sectors, with program funds planned and used jointly.

A new Brookings webinar and a recent study shows some of the techniques available for governments at all levels to “braid and blend” funds from different sectors and agencies in order to focus on social determinants. In braiding, funds from different programs and agencies are mingled, but each agency keeps track of its “own” funds; in blending, different funds are pooled.

One approach to advancing braiding or blending is simply for each level of government to encourage lower levels of government to use the flexibility that is currently available, such as the federal government inviting states to use Section 1115 Medicaid waivers. There is often much more flexibility available in using federal and other funds than many state or local governments realize.

Another approach is for governments to set up bodies designed to coordinate program planning. The federal Interagency Council on Homelessness is a good example, as are state-level children’s cabinets. These bodies make it easier for different departments to focus on a common problem or population.

Read the full article about budget flexibility by Stuart M Butler, Timothy Higashi, and Nehath Sheriff at Brookings.