By Michael R. Fraser, PhD CAE
This issue of Pulse focuses on preconception health and prematurity prevention. Those of you who spent time with us in October at the 75th Anniversary of Title V celebration know that preconception health and the life course perspective are emerging themes that will be guiding MCH work well in to the future, and rightly so. The emphasis on improving health across the life course is a logical and exciting direction for maternal and child health programs – and honestly, something that I think we have been doing for many years, by many different names. Now, however, is our chance to leverage the national interest in improving health across the lifespan and make it real for state MCH programs. Now is the time to “get real” in terms of what preconception care really means for those of you who do the work of managing and implementing MCH programs in your states and communities.
Over the next few years AMCHP expects to continue to support efforts to implement a preconception health agenda with our members and partners in the states. We have the theoretical framework, a nascent research base, and the leadership support to move forward. In short, I believe we have the “what” and the “who” when it comes to preconception health.
However, what we don’t have is the “how.” We do not know how states can effectively implement core aspects of preconception health and the life course perspective to truly impact maternal and child health outcomes. Regardless of this unknown, AMCHP, our members and partners have been working toward getting a sense of the “how.” Most recently, AMCHP has been working with six state teams who are figuring out the “how” of integrating preconception health concepts into their adolescent and young adult efforts. Sharing the lessons from these six states is a start toward figuring out the “how” but figuring out the larger “how” is what needs to come next. We are looking to you to help us better understand how a preconception health agenda is translated from theory to practice in your states.
So, will you help us “get real” when it comes to preconception health? We have several opportunities to learn from you over the next couple of months. Most significantly we are supporting a facilitated discussion session or “town hall meeting” on the life course perspective and state and local health programs facilitated by AMCHP and CityMatCH at our upcoming AMCHP Conference – stay tuned for more details on that pre-conference opportunity to learn and share. Additionally, we are looking for resources to support state and local learning collaboratives on preconception health and the life course perspective. As we develop funds to support this important work we’ll be seeking volunteers to be part of what I am sure will be an excellent group of thought leaders and peers focusing on “how” to align their state programs to fully embrace a life course perspective.
I am excited by the opportunities that we have to truly impact maternal and child health outcomes through a focus on preconception health. Please let us know how you are “making it real” in your states, and what more you need in your own work as we move forward together.