Why Wait? The Value of Sharing Your Emerging and Promising Practices

By Kate Howe
Program Manager, Child Health, AMCHP

Many Pulse readers may be familiar with the AMCHP Innovation Station, a database of emerging, promising and best practices in MCH. Since 2009, Innovation Station has served as a resource for locating emerging, promising, or best practices related to a particular topic, population, or intervention, as well as a platform for MCH programs to share their successes and lessons learned. While use of Innovation Station has increased over the years, states may still be hesitant to submit their work. AMCHP Best Practice Committee members Sarah Verbiest, committee chair and executive director, UNC Center for Maternal & Infant Health, and Deb Wagler, public health analyst, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)/Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), recently shared their insights as to why programs may not submit to Innovation Station and dispelled some of the "myths" around the common barriers to submitting.

Myth 1: It’s Not Good Enough Yet

Deb Wagler: As a project officer for the block grants, I frequently see states working on innovative examples that would be helpful to share with other states working in similar areas; however, these program designs and initiatives are often not submitted to Innovation Station. When I ask a state why they have not submitted, one of the most common responses I hear about their reluctance to submit is that they believe the example is not formalized enough yet. In public health, if there is anything we know it is that CHANGE is our only constant. We adapt as we go and these examples show strong problem solving that could help others.

We greatly appreciate the formalized and well-evaluated interventions that are shared, but we also need to ramp up those examples that are not fully formed. The latter are often timely to the current environment and meet a need that many other states are likely experiencing.

Sarah Verbiest: I agree! While states may not feel ready to share a practice that isn’t quite at the level of a well-evaluated and replicated "best" practice, it is important to be building a knowledge base and learning from each other. One of the tenets behind the AMCHP continuum of best practices is that a best practice is not a static concept, but rather an evolving process. With time and opportunity, an emerging practice with a strong foundation, design and evaluation plan would be able to demonstrate effectiveness as a promising, and eventually best practice.

Having a deep idea bank is valuable for the MCH community collectively, but we all need to invest a little of our time to build it by submitting our work! Getting to the level of a best practice is a great standard to aim for, but we all can certainly learn from each other even at the emerging and promising levels.

Myth 2: There’s Not Enough Time

Deb: The second most common reason I hear for delaying a submission to Innovation Station is because a state may not feel there is enough time to pull together the information or data that they have. We understand that states are stretched thin on time and resources. AMCHP is very supportive and has staff and epidemiologic capacity to work with you and figure out how to package the data you have or describe the plans for the data collection to accompany your emerging practice. In our current environment of increasing emphasis on quality improvement, small tests of change and the days ahead that guarantee broad change in our health service sectors, now is the time to share your ideas! The advantages to submitters include hearing comments from peers for enhancing the work, as well as potential access to epidemiologic expertise to better plan data relevant to your project.

Sarah: Additionally, most of the projects and programs that we, as an MCH community, develop require progress reports, evaluation plans, etc. for funders or our departments. The Innovation Station application builds on the information that most programs have already compiled. Many submitters find that they can copy and paste existing information to complete the submission form.

Furthermore, AMCHP is a great resource to help you get started. Staff are available to talk with you about potential applications, offer suggestions to make your application more robust, and even start a draft of your application if you send background and related program materials. AMCHP also can provide some technical assistance or connect you with resources to respond to review comments.

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We hope states will be encouraged to share their in-time, real working examples by submitting ideas they are developing to Innovation Station! If you would like to be considered for inclusion in the Innovation Station database, visit amchp.org/bestpractices to access more information about the best practice submission process or contact Kate Howe.