Under the influence: a case study of academic/practice partnerships in tobacco prevention
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In March 1996, the state of Texas sued the US tobacco industry in an effort to recoup some of the state’s expenditures on medical costs incurred by smokers. By the summer of 1998, officials for the state had settled this lawsuit. During the 1999 Texas Legislative Session, bills passed that determined the appropriation of tobacco settlement funds. One of the major aspects involved the creation of a $200 million endowment, the interest from which would fund tobacco education and enforcement programs through the state health department at an annual rate of around $9.3 million. To assist the state health department’s tobacco prevention and control office in addressing its legislative mandate on tobacco settlement funds, academic researchers from eight universities around the state began working together with the health department to determine the most effective ways in which to apply the limited funds and meet the legislative constraints on program composition. The current study is based on the academic/practice partnerships that arose within the framework of this large-scale, multimillion-dollar, multi-organization tobacco prevention and education project made possible with tobacco settlement funds. The four topical strands upon which the study draws are academic/practice linkages, collaboration, interorganizational relationships, and Tuckman’s (1965) model of group development. In addition, using critical theory as a tool of analysis, issues of politics and power are examined with a critical lens. Findings indicate that participants’ cultural contexts strongly influence group dynamics, as do the various systems in which group members are embedded. The environments in which participants operate are significant, especially when those environments involve entities of state government and the inevitable politics surrounding state agencies, the legislature, and the governor. In addition, the roles of insider and outsider take on paradoxical meaning in academic/practice partnerships. Power and status are more likely to determine whether one is an insider or outsider than one’s placement in a particular organization.