Letter from Barbara Levin, MCH Section Chair, Strategic Planning
CREATING A NEW AGENDA FOR MCH: INVOLVEMENT IS ESSENTIAL
Creating a new agenda for the MCH Section has been much like doing a jig-saw puzzle. First the Leadership put together the framework at the March 2007 midyear meeting, and now the membership is being asked to fill in the actual design piece-by-piece. The variety of issues facing professionals in the field of maternal and child health, and the many types of training and experience of those individuals makes this a challenge. The timetable for the further development is not as rushed as working on a puzzle during a week at the beach, but has pressures.
At the mid year meeting in March 2007, the MCH leadership focused on capacity building. With the help of Dee Jeffers from the Chiles Center at the University of South Florida as facilitator, the group hammered through two full days of strategic planning and resource evaluation. The group described four Section-wide goals and five areas for development, which are listed below. These goals and issues are the framework for this new agenda
The goals are focused on increasing APHA’s impact in the national policy arena for maternal and child health. Stated without explanation, they are:
- Influence national maternal and child health policies
- Assure that APHA is positioned to play an active role in maternal and child health policy
- Submit timely and appropriate position papers related to practice, program, research and funding.
- Place maternal and child professionals into APHA policy positions
- Develop leadership within the Section
- Communicate with members about policy and programmatic issues
To accomplish this mission, the Leadership has defined five strategies for change within the section. The first is increasing the Section’s influence in APHA to affect the organization’s policy decisions. The next two are internal strategies: improving membership through recruitment of new members and retention of old ones; and mentoring new leadership for the section within the membership. The last two strategies are the priorities for the section at any time: policy development and advocacy. A number of action steps for each of these strategies were prepared at the two day meeting.
The group discussed a list of emerging and persistent issues; each could require a year-long task force to prepare a policy statement. This list included: workforce development; health inequities; pre-conceptual care; access to comprehensive risk appropriate care; normal birth; preventing preterm birth, including iatrogenic; maternal mortality; and children with special health care needs. The next steps are to prioritize this list and find sponsors within the section membership willing to develop the policy statements necessary for each one. These are the puzzle pieces missing in the challenge.
Rethinking the MCH Section’s present impact on national policy and creating an agenda for change will require time and commitment. The Section leadership has set things in motion. The larger membership is now asked, encouraged, and cajoled to get involved and be active. Feedback is necessary, and will be elicited both online and in personal at the Annual Meeting.
In November in Washington, the MCH Section will kick off the Agenda project at the afternoon session on Sunday. The framework structured by the leadership will be introduced, and task groups will form to deal with areas of interest. The task groups will have early Monday morning to map out their initial approach. There is much to be done. Gathering together provides a rare opportunity to draw inspiration and energy for taking on common and pressing concerns.
Volunteers are needed to head the various task groups. A straw poll to prioritize the issues will be held online, but the emergence of people interested in each topic will move that specific issue along. The Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. should be energizing and exciting, but attendance is not essential for participation. Work on this agenda will continue through the year, and much of the effort will be on-line or through
The greatest need in this project is the involvement of the larger MCH membership. The members of MCH bring a wealth of experience and vision to the enterprise. They have long been committed to working for the public interest. The involvement and energy of this group can bring about meaningful and positive change. Each piece in this puzzle is distinct, but together the pieces can form a coherent picture. While planning and development are important, the actions based on this vision, the New Agenda, is improvement of maternal and child health.