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 Management Minute

A Crystal Ball... Or the Next Best Thing

There are lots of reasons I wish I had a crystal ball and could see with certainty what the future holds. A crystal ball would really have come in handy at our board of directors meeting last week at which the board reviewed and refreshed the 2009-2012 AMCHP Strategic Plan. Part of our discussion included looking at the current plan, thinking about the future, and assessing the trends that will impact state MCH programs in the coming year. The board focused on how AMCHP could position itself to address these trends, asking: Is our current Strategic Plan flexible enough to address emerging issues? What might have to change? Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball. Instead, we had to do the next best thing: forecast the future using feedback from a variety of members, partners and staff. 

Certainly the future will hold many surprises but the trends we forecasted seem to be fairly consistent across all our different perspectives and stakeholders. The following is a short summary of the strategic issues we identified and some of the basic questions raised by each. 

Budget Pressures: At the top of everyone’s list of trends was the impact of continued state budget cuts and pressures on the federal government to trim its spending as well. How can we maintain and expand support for MCH programs in light of major pressures to trim, cut or eliminate government programs? 

Implementing or Holding Out on Health Reform: While a number of states have begun to implement applicable provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), others have not. The continued challenge of implementing health reform given political and fiscal pressures in the states was forecast as an important issue. How can AMCHP best support states given their varied capacity to implement ACA in their states? 

Support for the Life Course Approach: While definitions of the life course approach varied among board members, as did the issue of whether or not it is a “new” trend or tried and true MCH practice, everyone agreed that it is a concept being widely cited in MCH and will continue to be prominent in the future. The real question for MCH practice that was raised is “How do we make this real to my health department?” (i.e., What are the operational pieces needed to organize a MCH program that implements the life course perspective to their practice?) 

Integration of Chronic Disease Programs and MCH: The need to integrate and connect categorical work was mentioned several times at the meeting. New grant opportunities to address chronic disease at the state and local level were discussed, specifically the Community Transformation Grant program. Despite the push to integrate, many said that it is hard to do so in their current organizations. How can we truly leverage these new opportunities to bring MCH and chronic disease programs together at the state level? What best practices can AMCHP share to make this important connection happen more effectively in the states? 

Family Involvement and Youth Engagement: The board spent a lot of time assessing current work to involve families in AMCHP, and discussed youth involvement within AMCHP and in state Title V programs. Of particular note was emerging engagement of youth through new funding for adolescent health. Some of the questions for AMCHP: How can we best support family involvement across the range of families served by MCH programs? What would youth involvement in AMCHP look like and how can we build capacity to support that? 

Workforce Changes: It was noted that there are staffing changes in our state agencies, and at our local and federal partners. A new cadre of MCH leaders is being developed, and agencies are being reorganized. What is AMCHP’s role in promoting new leaders, getting emerging leaders involved in AMCHP while also retaining the expertise of our alumni? What will be needed by MCH leaders in the future and how can we support AMCHP members to meet these needs? 

As you can see, our conversations raised a lot of questions! The board discussion was affirming of our current goals and strategies, and some minor changes were recommended to improve the Strategic Plan in the next year. As we look toward 2012, the next time we do a wholesale revision of our Strategic Plan, there is plenty to consider – and we’ll need all your input and support to predict what the future holds for MCH. I look forward to working with the board, our members, partners and staff to continue to move AMCHP forward.