Roundtable Reveals Top Challenges in State MCH Data and Epidemiology
April 2017

Jennifer Farfalla
Senior Epidemiologist, AMCHP

Bringing together epidemiologists to talk about needs and challenges at the state level is an insightful experience. In 2016 AMCHP held its first epidemiology roundtable discussion at our Annual Conference, where epidemiologists and other data-mind professionals discussed analytic needs of their states and suggested training topics. Building on that success, we held another epi roundtable at the 2017 Annual Conference, drawing more than 50 participants – many of whom were maternal and child health epidemiologists, while others were programmatic staff and Title V directors who wanted to discuss departmental data and epidemiology needs or ways to increase collaboration with epidemiologists.

One topic of discussion was the most pressing challenges related to data and epidemiology at state-level MCH programs. The most popular responses fell into four categories: workforce, data access/availability, Title V Block Grant support and analytic capacity. The chart shows some of the challenges explored in each category:


  • Filling epidemiologist positions and retaining talent
  • Salary challenges
  • States have no epidemiology positions or funding for epidemiology positions
​Data Access and Availability

  • Addressing the opioid crisis with limited access to necessary data
  • Obtaining county-level or small-area estimate data
  • Timely access to data, particularly real-time data
  • Lack of current data-sharing agreements
​Title V Support

  • Developing evidence-based or informed strategy measures (ESMs) and accessing data for these measures
  • Needs assessment training
​Analytic Capacity

  • Opportunities to keep up a well-rounded epidemiology skill set
  • Increasing skills in statistical software (SAS, STATA, SPSS, R)
  • Performing data linkages (Ex: Medicaid data linkages, maternal mortality and birth certificate data)

Using the Feedback

AMCHP used the feedback from the 2016 epidemiology roundtable discussion to help inform topics for the in-person data trainings prior to the 2016 National MCH Epidemiology Conference in September. AMCHP staff plans to use feedback from the 2017 roundtable discussion to inform in-person trainings in 2017, as well as virtual trainings and grant-writing opportunities that will allow us to offer more support to MCH epidemiologists. A few specific ideas for AMCHP-sponsored epidemiology trainings were:

  • Qualitative analysis and mixed methods training
  • Needs assessment 101 and an advanced needs assessment training
  • SAS trainings
  • Publishing to peer-reviewed journals
  • Program evaluation
  • Return on investment
  • Measuring social determinants and applying the analysis

An unofficial evaluation of the room at the end of the roundtable discussions showed an interest in continuing to have these types of epi-specific events at the AMCHP conference. Be on the lookout for our epidemiology event at AMCHP 2018!