Master's Project Title:

Survey Research and Creation for the Newborn & Child Follow-Up Unit at MDH (Executive Summary)

MCH Student:

Heather Barto

Date of Defense:

Friday, October 18, 2020


For my field experience project, I worked with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) in their Newborn and Child Follow-Up (NCFU) unit. I helped create and develop a survey to be distributed to parents of children who have been identified with a newborn screening condition. In Minnesota, the newborn screening program screens newborns to see if they are at risk for certain disorders and conditions, such as hearing loss. Screening newborns shortly after birth is important for public health because early screening allows for medical professionals to detect possibly fatal or disabling conditions in newborns. This allows for early treatment, which can reduce effects of the disorder and even eliminate the disorder. If left untreated, certain disorders can have detrimental effects on a child, such as developmental delays and physical disabilities (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development 2017).

My field experience work had three core objectives: 1) to develop recommendations for a family and child survey to evaluate population needs and health outcomes at multiple time points, 2) create and edit a survey guide to organize recommendations, and 3) provide information for the staff at MDH for use in the future with NCFU unit needs. My work on the survey started with a general overview of the NCFU unit and its practices, including how departments function within MDH. Working on a literature review was the first step to survey creation. I looked at a variety of materials, including information from past national surveys, such as the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs of 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 and the National Survey of Children’s Health from 2016-2017. These surveys provided a good overview of past questions and helped link key health indicators decided upon by the NCFU unit staff members. Another good resource was the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau. They had information on each state in the country as “state snapshot,” with valuable information on other key health indicators of importance for each state. Using this information, along with multiple research articles, I started creation of the survey guide using the survey indicators and finding corresponding questions.

Question order was determined after each question had been written; I used previous literature review and past survey sources to find the most appropriate order for our audience.  Once the initial research phase was complete, and the survey questions had been added, the survey was divided into 7 different sections: diagnosis and changes, health of child, insurance, access to care and services, care and treatment, lifestyle and parent support, and demographics. There were 37 questions in total. After the survey was completed into its final draft, I was able to present my survey and findings to the entire NCFU unit, to gather feedback, ask questions, and hear recommendations. My preceptor and I co-presented to the group, so her insights helped guide along the presentation as well. The information provided during the presentation will be used, along with my actual survey, in future work with the unit as they continue to revise the survey and determine how it will be distributed to families in the future. Further expectations for the survey involve the potential for expanding to all children with special health care needs, not just those identified with a newborn screening disorder.

My field experience took place at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota. MDH is a large, state-wide health department, with multiple divisions and units within those divisions. The mission of MDH is to protect, maintain, and improve the health of all Minnesotans. Their vision is for health equity in the state, where all communities are thriving and all people have what they need to be healthy (Minnesota Department of Health, n.d.). My field experience work pairs well with the mission and vision of MDH because with my survey research and creation, we are aiming to protect the health of children by identifying valuable information from parents who have children with a newborn condition. By learning more about the parent’s successes, struggles, and thoughts on raising their child, we can help ensure that they have resources available to give their child and their families the tools to be healthy and thriving.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunities I did with my field experience, and I learned a lot from my project. Initially, I was able to hone my skills of literature reviews, which coincided with a current class I am taking on public health research. Having the skills to evaluate and determine appropriate literature sources is valuable in the field of public health. I also learned about the process of survey creation. I had never written or researched a survey and the creation process before. I learned about survey criteria, such as response rates, response burdens, and ordering of questions. My project also taught me about different sources of information on maternal and child health topics, such as the state snapshots from the HRSA Maternal and Child Health Bureau. It was interesting to learn about the different health items, such as insurance or care coordination between families and their doctors; states prioritize different health outcomes depending on the needs of each state, so knowing more about Minnesota’s health priorities was useful from a public health standpoint.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was the application of health promotion in action, learning about the ways a government organization promotes public health through work with different populations such as newborns. Every child in Minnesota should have the same opportunities for living a heathy and safe life, regardless of insurance status or family income. Health equity (or an equal chance for all to lead healthy lives) is part of MDH’s vision for the state, and I was able to learn more about the ways MDH works towards promoting and striving towards health equity among the children diagnosed with a newborn screened-condition. Gathering information on populations of interest using a tool such as a survey is a useful technique in public health for learning people’s opinions, identifying areas for improvement in services offered, and discovering which health promotion campaigns and strategies are effective. As I have learned throughout my time in classes, prevention and health promotion are two core values of public health, and it was a great opportunity to see how my survey could directly impact those areas.

Thinking about future field experience project options within MDH, I believe that having a project to work on from start to finish during the field experience timeline is beneficial to the whole experience. I liked having a final product at the end, with the completed survey. Even though it was going to be revised by the NCFU team, the survey is a tangible item, created from many hours of research and work during my time at MDH. With a completed project, future students have something to show for their work besides simply helping on a continuing project. I became invested in my survey project, and I would have been disappointed to leave MDH without finishing it or learning what was to become of it. I think the activity of surveying parents should continue within NCFU. Follow-up with parents is important after their child has been diagnosed with a screened condition to better learn which resources the family is utilizing and what could be done differently. The NCFU unit should continue to provide families with services that can benefit the overall health of the child, along with helping the families thrive, and I think this process can be made more efficient with the use of a survey to collect the necessary data.

In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the MN Department of Health. My preceptor was an incredible resource, guiding me through the survey creation process and providing me with constructive feedback. I learned a lot about MDH, making a survey, and the implications for use in the field of public health, which will benefit me greatly in the future.



Minnesota Department of Health. (n.d.). MDH Mission, Vision and Values – Minnesota Dept. of Health. Retrieved October 1, 2019, from

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2017). What is the purpose of newborn screening? Retrieved October 1, 2019, from