By Susan Chacon
Children's Medical Services, Title V Children with Special Health Care Needs
State of New Mexico
This issue of PULSE focuses on engagement with communities, families, non-traditional partners, and diversity. Webster's defines "engagement" as a formal agreement, a commitment. I'd like to show you how two organizations that I help to lead have been practicing engagement for projects that lay the foundation for their work.
The Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) is revising and updating its strategic plan, which helps to guide the organization to meet the needs of its stakeholders. You may recall that during AMCHP's Annual Conference in Washington, last February, a series of opportunities were available to conference participants to provide feedback to AMCHP and the board of directors on the current AMCHP vision, mission, and strategic plan. AMCHP also solicited feedback from other stakeholders, including federal funders, foundations, consumer organizations, public health programs, nonprofits, and the maternal and child health (MCH) community at large.
Feedback and input were also sought from AMCHP staff, as they are the people who need to make the strategic plan something of value to the organization and implement its activities. It was important that AMCHP engage a large cross-section of traditional and non-traditional partners to get a pulse on what issues they were addressing well and what areas needed more focus and attention.
The board of directors met in July to review the results of this extensive outreach and use those results to revise and update the strategic plan. The next step in the process was to have the staff operationalize the plan and develop activities to address the goals and objectives. The new strategic plan will be revealed within the next few months and will guide the staff and the board over the next three years.
State agencies funded by the federal Title V program are gearing up for a similar process as we approach the next five-year needs assessment. The needs assessment is a critical component of the MCH Block Grant, as it requires states to systematically assess the status of MCH populations and identify areas where Title V programs need to focus resources. The results of the needs assessment drive the development of the state action plan and subsequent evidence-based strategies.
We all know the importance of engagement in this needs assessment if we truly want to hear from our communities. In my state of New Mexico, this can prove challenging due to the many diverse cultures, languages, and varied geography. During the last five-year needs assessment, we were more deliberate than before in reaching out to Native American families living on and off reservations, as well as to communities on the U.S.-Mexico border. The feedback was invaluable, and even more importantly, these communities felt heard and were grateful to be part of the process. In the next year, my team will assess the quality and effectiveness of our engagement during the past needs assessment and adjust our strategies so we can truly reflect the needs of our diverse MCH population.
For AMCHP and New Mexico's Children's Medical Services, the engagement process is different but the impact is the same: We do our jobs better.