The National MCH Workforce Development Center sponsored a learning opportunity for state MCH leaders focused on change management themes related to health improvement for maternal and child health populations. The Academy structure was designed using adult-learning principles, including the requirement that all Academy Scholars apply and be accepted for participation, complete assignments prior to the start of the Academy in preparation for the training, and make a plan for sharing what they learned with their home agencies. All sessions included both peer and expert-led learning. Learning was reinforced throughout the Academy with small group discussions and applied action tools.
The Academy learning objectives were:
- Understand and describe population health
- Identify and describe Title V's existing/newly defined role in population health/population health activities
- Understand and articulate how population health outcomes are measured and evaluated
- Understand the importance of building collaborative relationships/partnerships to achieve population health
- Learn techniques to establish and sustain partnerships to engage in community-based, population health initiatives
- Learn adaptive change techniques to lead in a transformative environment
- Understand and apply Implementation Science concepts to achieve population health goals
- Build networks with peers to improve population health
The Academy attracted 40 Scholars from 24 states and territories, representing all 10 DHHS regions. The Scholars' professional roles were diverse, including Title V directors, division and unit heads, as well as CYSHCN directors, staff members, and family representatives.
Scholars were asked to provide feedback on the five plenary sessions and six breakout sessions, using questions in 5 point scales and open-ended queries. The response rate was 78%. The mean for all sessions was 4.5 (range 3.8-5.0). Scholars strongly agreed (4.7 out of 5.0) that they are confident that they "can understand and describe population health" and that they "can identify and describe Title V's existing/newly defined role in population health/population health activities" (4.6/5.0). Feedback was also requested for the overall design and impact of the Academy. In response to "The Academy will help me engage meaningfully/lead my state in transforming population health" Scholars strongly agreed (4.6). In response to "The Academy helped me better connect my state/territory work/Block Grant to population health" the mean was 4.7.
Four clear themes emerged about what Scholars valued most from their Academy experience:
- Specific tools and the hands on opportunity to explore and apply them
- Targeted and focused topics, all within the domain of population health
- High quality presentations
- Interaction with peers, both to learn from one another, and to network for the future. Of the few comments about what could have made the Academy more effective, a frequent comment was about the benefits of even more time to interact with presenters and peers.
One key workforce development training outcome is the intention to apply knowledge and skills. At the end of each day, Scholars were asked about intention to apply what they had learned; the 31 Scholars responding to this evaluation survey generated 44 examples. There were four major themes:
- Multi-Sector Engagement: The Academy increased awareness that population health challenges require partnerships across sectors. Scholars commented how they will use tools from the Academy to engage partners to collectively work toward improved population health outcomes.
- Adaptive Leadership/Change Management: Scholars reported that they planned to act on what they learned about approaching technical versus adaptive situations. One planned to, "address the adaptive question and not get derailed with technical questions."
- Health Impact Assessment (HIA): Attention to HIA stimulated new ways to think about population health. One Scholar noted that they had already scheduled a meeting with public health leaders to explore how HIA can inform their planning.
- Implementation: The implementation frameworks and tools that were discussed and used by Scholars received enthusiastic reviews. Scholars reported intentions to educate colleagues about implementation and incorporate implementation approaches into ongoing and new programs.
A number of other specific intentions to apply knowledge and new tools deserve mention, even if provided by only one or two Scholars. These include:
- Using data: The Academy renewed Title V participants' intention to interact with Medicaid about access to data and to take steps to link real-time data with population health strategies.
- Health equity: The Academy prompted Scholars' desire to take steps to assure that data make it possible to reflect and then act on challenges regarding health equity. For example, one Scholar noted plans to explore geo-coding of Medicaid data.
- Parent participation: One Scholar intended to work on increasing parent participation through a support group of parents who serve on various committees in order to share their insights and challenges.
Scholars were asked if they would recommend the Academy to a colleague; 27 of 31 responded that they would, many enthusiastically so:
- "especially for those who are committed to ongoing learning and application in work place settings"
- "the learning opportunity is exceptional"
- "absolutely amazing experience"
In summary, the structure and content of the Academy was successful in providing a fertile and invigorating learning environment for Scholars, who reported high satisfaction in their learning both from experts and one another. They also reported high intentions to apply their learning and walked away from the Academy with tools to get them started on this path to improve health for MCH populations.