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Building public health capacity and scaling evidence-based programs through online learning communities: The Tobacco Control Network and Common Ground

At the Emory Centers for Training and Technical Assistance, we have over a decade of experience creating and facilitating public health networks, online learning communities, communities of practice, and specialized communication systems. These systems are used to capture and disseminate information on evidence-based practices and promote rapid sharing of information, strategies, and lessons learned among public health practitioners.

Read on to learn about two of these projects:

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    The Tobacco Control Network

    From 2005-2014, the Tobacco Technical Assistance Consortium (TTAC), a dedicated center within the Emory Centers for Training and Technical Assistance, provided support, management, and training to the Tobacco Control Network (TCN), through a contract with the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. TCN is a network of tobacco control program managers and key staff from all 50 states, D.C, and eight territorial jurisdictions. Read more

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    The Common Ground Online Learning Community

    Common Ground is an online learning community that provides support for Lifestyle Coaches who are delivering the evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change program to groups of participants around the country. The community provides a space for these Lifestyle Coaches to access up-to-date information and get suggestions for best practices. It is also a place for them to share experiences and ask questions from experts and peers. Read more




The Tobacco Control Network

Coordination - a catalyst for change

The TCN is a network of tobacco control program managers and key staff from all 50 states, D.C, and eight territorial jurisdictions. It is a coordinated effort that acts as a catalyst for change in the tobacco control movement through:

  • Facilitating knowledge exchange by keeping its members informed about state and national happenings and promoting the sharing of policy and programming strategies
  • Fostering leadership development among its members
  • Collaborating with partners at all levels of tobacco control

Creating connections and peer support

TTAC staff worked closely with TCN participants to create a strong communications and technical assistance infrastructure to disseminate the latest scientific findings on evidence-based practices while addressing emerging challenges in tobacco control. The TTAC staff:

  • Provided administrative support, subject matter expertise, group facilitation, and connections to state and national partners to implement TCN activities;
  • Designed a governance structure and bylaws for the network, and engaged the Executive Committee, a core group of dedicated tobacco control program leaders who serve as spokespeople for state and territory tobacco control programs to set priorities, plan, and implement TCN programming and initiatives in support of state-level tobacco control efforts;
  • Served as liaisons, alongside the Executive Committee, representing states’ interests with other national organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration / Center for Tobacco Products (FDA-CTP), and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids;
  • Organized networking opportunities online and in person to enable members to tap into the collective expertise of over 500 state / territory tobacco control staff and partners to help members connect, collaborate, and innovate; and
  • Disseminated resources and information on evidence-based policy, system, and environmental approaches to members via e-newsletters, a peer information exchange listserv, and a webinar series on leadership and policy strategies.

TCN is nationally-known and respected, and has become sought-after as a point of contact for partnering and communicating with state tobacco programs.

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The Common Ground Online Learning Community

Common Ground is an online learning community that provides support for Lifestyle Coaches who are delivering the evidence-based National Diabetes Prevention Program lifestyle change program to groups of participants around the country.

Designing a space for interaction

Common Ground was created in 2012 by the Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center (DTTAC), a dedicated center within the Emory Centers for Training and Technical Assistance, through a contract with the CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation.

As an interactive community, content from member posts and questions drive the ongoing development of new content that meets the real and immediate needs of Lifestyle Coaches. The content and interactive functions on Common Ground:

  • Empower peers to support one another;
  • Allow for best practice sharing;
  • Develop Lifestyle Coaches’ skills in delivering the program; and
  • Provide access to sortable and downloadable resources and tools in one convenient location.

Convening a vibrant and diverse community

Lifestyle Coaches do not need to be health care professionals or have experience in diabetes prevention, so members of Common Ground have a wide range of backgrounds. They live in all parts of the country and deliver the lifestyle change program to people in many types of settings, from worksites to correctional institutions. Common Ground benefits from the rich diversity of its members, who are united by their common passion to help people in their communities prevent type 2 diabetes through lifestyle change. DTTAC staff provide subject matter expertise from their implementation of the Lifestyle Coach training and National DPP, and just as importantly, facilitate connections between the members of the community.

The Lifestyle Coaches who are members of Common Ground represent a variety of organizations from around the country, such as:

  • Businesses;
  • Community-based organizations;
  • Universities;
  • Local health departments; and
  • Faith-based institutions.

Feedback from Lifestyle Coaches has been overwhelmingly positive, with members stating that Common Ground is a valuable asset to their work in the field. Common Ground has experienced a high join rate and has grown to over 800 members.


About the Emory Centers for Training and Technical Assistance:

Housed within the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, the Emory Centers for Training and Technical Assistance helps public health practitioners develop the skills, programs and policy action needed to build healthier communities and has provided capacity‐building services to community, state and national programs in all 50 states and territories since 2001. Contact us to learn more about our online learning communities, or to inquire about creating one for your group!

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