Background: The health implications of overweight and obesity warrant preventive action at the local level. Fiscal challenges have underlined the need for innovative partnerships between public and private sectors to address population health. The FriarFit initiative is a partnership between a professional sports franchise and public health organizations aiming to promote nutrition and physical activity in San Diego, California.
Methods: Key stakeholder interviews (N=21) with partners as well as staff from local school districts informed a case study on motives for engagement, initiative implementation and sustainability, and partner outcomes. A survey conducted with participants enrolled in university-based behavioral labs in Los Angeles and San Diego (N=551) explored partnership outcomes for private partners by assessing whether the fit of a fictitious initiative with the mission of the San Diego Padres influenced consumer evaluation of the franchise and patronization intentions. Participants were randomized to read a brief history of the San Diego Padres (control), a summary of a low-fit initiative (breast cancer), or a summary of a high-fit initiative (childhood obesity).
Results: The case study found that partnering organizations shared common motives. The involvement of program champions, leadership buy-in, and use of existing infrastructure helped sustain core activities over a four-year period. Co-branding helped drive participation in a partner's public health program, but sustainability of these efforts was dependent on funding for incentives. Stakeholders desired to establish open communication and review their mission, activities, and desired outcomes moving forward. School respondents reported significant barriers to promoting nutrition and physical activity, and requested additional resources to drive the implementation of FriarFit Instant Recess®, a physical activity DVD, in schools. The partner engagement survey demonstrated that the presence of an outreach initiative, regardless of its fit with the organization mission, positively influenced consumer evaluation of the franchise. However, respondents who were exposed to the high-fit initiative, were from the San Diego survey site, or had a high level of interest in baseball were significantly more likely to express future intentions to patronize the organization.
Conclusion: These results provide encouraging evidence that partnerships to address public health issues can yield beneficial outcomes for participating organizations.