Reflections on Team Conflict and Communication


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The World Health Organization describes social determinants of health (SDoH) as the “non-medical factors that influence health outcomes'' or, more specifically, “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.”1 These factors are complex, interrelated and particularly important as they are estimated to account for 40% of modifiable health outcomes in comparison to the 20% contribution of clinical medicine.2 While all SDoH are important, access to healthy food is worth particular attention due to its prevalence and impact. In 2020, 13.8 million households qualified as food insecure at some point during the year. That same year, in Mower county, MN, 8.4% of the population was estimated to be food insecure.3,4 Efforts to reduce food insecurity are crucial to improving health since food insecurity has well-documented, negative impacts on physical and mental health. In Mower county, a broad coalition of community organizations and major local employers such as Hormel Foods and the Mayo Clinic Health System are working to end food insecurity entirely.5 Doing so will require effective communication and conflict resolution. 

Collaboration Requires Communication

In our project, we were asked to evaluate the internet platform Findhelp as a tool to potentially increase the efficiency of community efforts and aid collaboration. Findhelp describes itself as an open and focused social care network that works with a variety of organizations across sectors, including healthcare to connect people to the social services they need. In addition to being available publicly to individuals, it can also be integrated into electronic medical records to enable clinicians to make social care referrals within a health care appointment. These capabilities have potential to facilitate community efforts to reduce and eliminate food insecurity, which will require everyone involved to work together.

Despite the openness of local Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to implement Findhelp, these efforts were stalled by the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As with any collaborative interprofessional endeavor, it is possible that conflict may arise during implementation of a new tool or system; change can be difficult and uncertain. In our experience, misunderstandings represent a key driver of conflict, which can be greatly damaging but can also be largely prevented through effective communication. Fortunately, we have not seen significant intra-team or inter-team conflict on our interprofessional internship project which we attribute to a strong shared sense of mission. Within this strong sense of mission and shared alignment, it appears that possible sources of conflict were charitably interpreted, thus reducing the potential for tension. However, minor moments of conflict still have potential to erode the shared sense of mission, which could lead to the degradation of team dynamics and precipitation of conflict. 

Thus, our overall takeaways on Findhelp implementation are generally the same as those regarding the prevention of conflict within a team: the need for solid communication and processes. First, it is crucial to establish trust and a pattern of good communication. Within this context, misunderstandings are less likely to occur, and, with a strong shared mission, can be overcome relatively easily. Therefore, taking time to establish and maintain a clear sense of purpose within a team can return significant dividends. Similarly, we have seen that with a history of trust, one can more effectively assume positive intent which can help prevent conflict. Second, when conflict does arise, it is important to have agreed-upon processes to address and resolve the disagreement. Ultimately, elimination of food insecurity will require significant collaboration among the stakeholders of Mower county, which could lead to conflict. Implementation of tools such as Findhelp has significant potential to increase efficiency and collaboration but must be supported by trust, communication, and well-defined processes among those who will utilize them in addition to commitment to a shared vision.


  1. World Health Organization: WHO. (2019, May 30). Social determinants of health
  2. Morelli, V. (2023). Social Determinants of Health: An Overview for the Primary care provider. Primary Care50(4), 507–525.
  3. Food Insecurity - Healthy People 2030 | (n.d.).
  4. Overall (all ages) Hunger & Poverty in Minnesota | Map the Meal Gap. (n.d.).
  5. Hometown Food Security Project. (2023, April). Hunger and Food Insecurity Community Assessment Report. 
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