Emerging Workforce Issues- Protecting the Health of Mothers and Children in Emergencies
August 2019

Marianne E. Zotti, DrPH, MS, FAAN Emeritus
Subject Matter Expert Consultant
The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs
Theresa Chapple-McGruder, PhD, MPH
Associate Director, Workforce and Capacity Building
The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs 


Human populations have always had to adjust to changes in their environment. However, as the pace of climate change accelerates, maternal and child health (MCH) professionals need to be ready to address a variety of new or increased stressors related to heat, frequency and intensity of storms and wildfires, disease vectors, allergens and pollution. These stressors can result in illness or death of family and friends, geographic displacement, property damage and chronic stress on families (https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=44).

How do MCH professionals prepare to help families protect themselves from effects of these stressors? First, public health and medical professionals can do additional training about effects of these stressors on MCH populations. One example is the online course available through the Division of Reproductive Health (DRH) within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/emergency/training-course/index.html. We encourage you to take this course now.

Just going through training, however, is not sufficient. We need to examine how the MCH field can contribute to public health preparedness and response for our populations at all levels da – federal, tribal, state, territory, and local. States and territories already have experience with emergencies but often struggle to get the unique MCH needs considered during an emergency response. Therefore, in 2018 AMCHP and the DRH Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) team partnered to offer the Building Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Capacity for Maternal and Infant Health Action Learning Collaborative (ALC).

During the first ALC cohort (2018-2019), three states (Hawaii, New Jersey, and Texas) formed interdisciplinary teams and completed the collaboration under the leadership of their Title V programs. The infographic gives an overview of how the collaborative works and some of the content.

AMCHP has recruited nine teams for the second ALC cohort (2019-2020): Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas (it wanted to repeat), and West Virginia. In addition to covering much of the content from in the year one cohort, the new cohort will focus on developing and testing strategies to:

  • integrate MCH into the overall state EPR plan;
  • gather epidemiologic/surveillance data on women of reproductive age and infants;
  • promote EPR communication and MCH clinical, public health and governmental partnerships; and
  • use public health programs, interventions, and policy to protect/promote MCH and prevent disease and injuries in emergencies.

AMCHP and the DRH EPR Team designed checklists of activities to accomplish each of the respective strategies above. The states in the second cohort will pilot test these checklists and provide feedback on their utility in accomplishing the strategies above and on successful ways of implementing them. The last step of ALC 2 will be to highlight successful processes and lessons learned through AMCHP’s Innovation Station.

As we experience more intense changes in our climate, this collaborative is timely and important. We need to move quickly to prepare to prevent and mitigate effects of those changes on the MCH population. While states and territories are often involved in emergency preparedness and response already, we hope that the second cohort will produce easy to-use tools and processes that build the capacity of MCH professionals to protect the health of mothers and children in emergencies.