Guest Post: MCH Student Charla Jones Reflects on AMCPH

My February 2011 trip to the Association of Maternal and Child Public Health Programs (AMCHP) conference provided me with my first experience in our Nation’s Capital. Minutes after my arrival in DC I was whisked off to the National Mall. As I stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, I looked to the East and saw the World War II memorial, the Washington Monument, and in the far distance, the setting sun reflecting off of the Capital Building. I was in awe and allowed a swarm of emotions to overtake me. I felt a strong sense of pride for the US, for its history, for its place in the world today, and for the future. This sentiment fortunately followed me to the AMCHP conference where I sat at the feet of some of the nation’s most remarkable MCH leaders. I am so grateful to have experienced this as a graduate student.

Highlights of AMCHP include:

One of the first sessions I attended was Dr. David Keller’s presentation of Painless Practical Principles of Evaluation. I am currently taking Program Eval with Eileen Harwood and have developed quite an interest in anything evaluation related. At the session we mostly talked logic models. The most beneficial part of this session was I happened to sit next a WIC coordinator from California, who just happened to have a copy of a logic model of a hospital-based breastfeeding promotion program they recently implemented and are now evaluating. She patiently walked through the whole thing with me. For the first time I actually understood why logic models are so awesome and useful.   

The preconception health symposium with a focus on adolescent reproductive health was also quite memorable. Various states presented successes and challenges they have faced promoting preconception health with adolescents. Before this I hadn’t had much exposure to the concept of preconception health. Many of the attendees had big issues with the concept of preconception health for teens. This notion comes from the idea that public health efforts should be focusing on healthy youth development in its entirety and not a concept that seems to view teens as only reproductive vessels. There was some lively debate and I came away with a desire to further investigate preconception health.

From Brian Castrucci, Georgia Title V Director, I learned the power of moving data into action to inform policy. He suggested that when working with policy makers, always have a few simple powerful data points from reliable sources ready to use.

Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin, and Communication Consultant, Andy Goodman, had me crying and laughing as they taught the importance of storytelling as our most powerful communications tool. It finally clicked that behind all those data sets, numbers, and program plans and evaluations that we are constantly trying to figure out are people with influential stories that need telling.

One of the most beneficial aspects of attending the AMCHP conference was the ability to intermingle with other conference participants. In each of the participants I saw and felt the same passion I see and feel every day in my fellow MCH students at the University of Minnesota. As I think back to my experience at the conference, I feel that same sense of pride I felt looking over our Nation’s Capital. As an MCH student, I feel a part of something grand and important. It was just the motivation I needed to continue forward in my education and a sentiment I hope to be able to pass on to other students as future MCH leaders.

Charla Jones is a graduate student in the Maternal and Child Health Program at the University of Minnesota