WHAT IF you collaborated with unlikely partners to solve your community’s health problems?

This post is fourth in a guest series from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about the winners of its 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

Paul Lindberg’s new job is to connect the dots. Officially, he is a collective impact health specialist for the Columbia Gorge region, which straddles Oregon and Washington.

Translation: He encourages groups that may not be used to collaborating to solve problems, together. Then he helps them find funds to support their ideas through grants or other sources.

Many organizations would not have the resources to research funding opportunities or to apply for grants on their own. But collectively, they have found success, securing close to $3 million in public and private grants since 2014.

In one collaboration, four school districts, a clinic, health officials and private dentists secured a commitment of $290,000—spread over four years—to develop a comprehensive school-based dental program for every 1st and 2nd grader.

In another example of cross-pollination, the health department in The Dalles, Ore., the county seat of Wasco County, is starting walking groups to educate people on health, exercise and nutrition. By design, the routes will run past corner stores that the Gorge Grown Food Network is working to supply with more locally grown produce. The idea is that when walkers get to the stores, they can use “Veggie Rx” vouchers—another Gorge Grown initiative—to buy snacks. Both the walking groups and the healthy corner stores have received $50,000 apiece from the Knight Cancer Institute.

Lindberg says “the anchor” for his work are the goals set in the community health improvement plan required by the State of Oregon. “That’s the document that we all can point to and say, ‘That’s what our community said we need,’” he explains.

Lindberg works through United Way of the Columbia Gorge, which receives funding for his position via Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital. A former lawyer who moved to Hood River, Ore., in 2000, Lindberg connects with community groups, nonprofit organizations, medical providers, health departments, schools, private practitioners and social service providers.

“It’s a very community-based, very collaborative effort,” Lindberg says, “and that has been one of the key components to our success.”

Mark Thomas, the chaplain at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital who also works on mission integration, sees Lindberg’s role fostering more eagerness among groups to work together. “The system is strengthening as momentum is building,” he says.

>Read more about the Columbia Gorge region’s journey to a Culture of Health.