By Catalina Desouza, BS, and Laura Powis, MPH
Policy is one of the 12 Essential Maternal and Child (MCH) Leadership Competencies as designated by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and yet one-third of state health agency staff members who consider “influencing policy development” as important to their work do not consider themselves to be capable of doing so. Additionally, policy is listed among primary job functions for nearly half of Title V respondents surveyed by AMCHP; however, it was also one of the top three reported training needs in terms of both critical thinking and management skills.
To address these policy workforce needs, AMCHP launched the Evidence-Informed Policy Initiative. This initiative aims to develop tools, resources, and opportunities to support the MCH workforce to develop skills and confidence to engage in the policy process. We are excited to share two key activities of the Evidence-Informed Policy Initiative: expanding the MCH Innovations Database to include evidence-informed policies and publishing the first two modules of our Policy Essential Series.
AMCHP’s Innovation Hub Database is a growing repository of “what’s working” in the field of MCH. It is an online database that aims to build MCH evidence by identifying, documenting, and sharing effective, evidence-based initiatives from the field that benefit MCH populations. As of 2021, AMCHP has expanded the Innovation Hub database to not only feature practices, but also feature both Big and Little P policies as well. Big P policies include public or governmental policies such as federal, state, or local legislative, judicial, or executive branch policies. In contrast, Little P policies include private or non-governmental policies such as workplace policies, nonprofit guidelines, or policies that guide program development and implementation.
The goal of AMCHPs’ policy track is to identify examples of model evidence-informed MCH policies that policymakers and MCH professionals can use as blueprints to inform the development, implementation, and evaluation of future policies that benefit MCH populations. The track assesses policy submissions to the database, focused on policy development, policy implementation, and policy evaluation. If you are an organization that contributes to the MCH workforce in policy, we encourage you to share examples of your policy work with us. Policies are reviewed by our Evidence and Implementation team and are accepted on a rolling basis. Check out the examples below for effective policies from our database to learn more about MCH policy work happening around the country: Colorado Birth Equity Bill Package and Maine Safe Sleep Kit Program.
In addition to expanding the Innovation Hub MCH Innovations Database to include policy examples, AMCHP has recently released the first two modules in our MCH Policy Essential Series. This series is a collection of free, asynchronous training modules that provide people working in MCH with the tools, knowledge, and capacity to effectively engage in policy development, implementation, evaluation, and advocacy. The series aims to ensure that policies affecting MCH populations are effective, equitable, and evidence-based and is a useful workforce development opportunity for anyone who wants to enhance their ability to understand and influence policy. These modules can also help at the organizational level to create staff teams and cultures that are committed and skilled at advancing equitable MCH policies. Consider using these modules to onboard new MCH staff, build the capacity of existing staff, or enhance collaborative policy efforts with partners.
The first module is focused on exploring MCH Policy and the Policy Process. The main objectives of the course are to help individuals understand the significance of policy within the context of MCH, recognize the key players in policy development and their policy-making process roles, explore the components of the Policy Engagement Framework for Public Health and its application to MCH, identify and understand the process involved in developing, enacting, implementing, and evaluating policies for MCH populations, and gain an understanding of evidence-based policy development and its application in the context of MCH policy. This module is helpful for leaders in the field who are interested in learning more about policy content through an MCH lens.
The second module is focused on Advancing Health Equity and Anti-Racism in MCH Policy. The main objectives of the course are to have individuals understand the concept of health equity, deepen their understanding of the historical context and systemic factors that have perpetuated structural racism, recognize the importance of these topics in MCH policy development, and apply strategies for promoting health equity and anti-racism through policy. This module includes useful content for anyone interested in learning more about the many ways structural racism and health inequities persist in our system and why it is important to consider them when developing policy for MCH populations.
AMCHP is continuing to expand our policy resources and contributing to help provide resources to meet the growing MCH workforce needs. We intend to continue growing the Policy Essential series with upcoming modules on the role of coalition-building, storytelling, policy evaluation, and more. If you are interested in exploring additional technical assistance opportunities to advance your MCH policy work, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss.