Feature 3


Building Leadership Capacity in MCH Programs

 By Marjory Ruderman, MHS
Project Director, Women’s and Children’s Health Policy Centers

 The MCH community has shown great interest in and commitment to developing leadership capacity and “grooming” the next generation of public health leaders. The publication in 2007 of the MCH Leadership Competencies by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau provided a tool for understanding the competencies required of MCH leaders and integrating them into job descriptions and professional development plans. Many resources exist to help programs provide leadership training, but barriers to accessing these resources remain for many MCH professionals, most notably limited resources (in terms of both staff time and money).  

The MCH Leadership Skills Development Series (MCHLDS) was created by the Women’s and Children’s Health Policy Center as an alternative or supplement to existing training programs and institutes. The series comprises a set of web-based modules intended for use by groups of colleagues as stand-alone instruments or as part of other professional development activities. By providing the modules free of charge over the web, we hope to reach a broad spectrum of MCH professionals, at all organizational levels, who otherwise might not have an opportunity to focus on leadership development. Additionally, in recognition that leadership development is an evolutionary, ongoing process, the modular format provides access to targeted training tools for professionals who have received other kinds of leadership training but wish to reinforce or enhance their skills periodically throughout their careers. 

Four modules currently are available, and two are in development: 

Module 1: Tapping Into Your Leadership Potential

Module 2: Creating Clarity and Shared Vision

Module 3: Building and Supporting Teams

Module 4: Managing Conflict Effectively

Module 5: Organizational Change (available late 2008)

Module 6: Mentoring and Developing People (available mid-2009) 

Each module makes use of multiple formats combining individual reflection and group activities (e.g,. video lectures and interviews with MCH leaders, self-assessment and planning tools, role plays, discussion questions, and other collaborative activities). Case studies are integrated into the modules to translate broad concepts into practice and illustrate their application in real-life MCH scenarios. Initial feedback from “the field” indicates that MCH programs are adapting the modules for a variety of settings and uses. In recent examples, LEND trainees have used the MCHLDS to enhance their conflict resolution and negotiation skills. Healthy Start nurses have adapted the modules to focus on infant mortality and the dynamics of coalitions; and other leadership training programs have integrated MCHLDS videos and discussion questions into their own training workshops. 

The MCHLDS provides a free, user-directed mechanism to enhance and sustain leadership skills and competencies in MCH staff. In conjunction with the MCH Leadership Competencies, the MCHLDS can help identify areas for organizational and individual growth and provide opportunities for teams of colleagues to build their personal and collaborative capacities.


“My colleague and I are providing these modules to our Healthy Start Registered Nurse leaders. The group is having fun and learning about leadership and dynamics of coalitions. These modules have provided the structure to adapt to many diences.” 

--Kathleen Moline, BSN, MA
Division of Women's and Infants' Health
Virginia Department of Health