Category: MCH Leadership Competencies 3.0: Other: Cultural Competency

MCH Leadership Competencies at UIC CoE in MCH

There are 13 Maternal & Child Health (MCH) Masters of Public Health (MPH) Training Programs supported by the MCH Bureau (MCHB) and funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The goal of the training programs is to educate and prepare the next generation of MCH leaders to ensure the health of our nation’s families and children. Each training program utilizes different strategies to ensure the trainees are prepared, but a common requirement of all programs is education and training on the MCH Leadership Competencies.

The MCH Training Programs were developed in alignment with the strategic plan created by the MCHB to ensure that MCH leaders “have the vision, expertise, and skills to provide the leadership needed to design and implement policies and programs to assure that children grow into competent, independent, nurturing, and caring adults”. 1 The leadership competencies were born out of that as a way to measure whether or not trainees were in fact rising to become leaders in the field.

The competencies are outlined in three main areas: self, others, and wider community.1 Self includes increasing one’s learning through reading, self reflection, instruction, and other experiences.1 Others includes leadership amongst fellow classmates, coworkers, colleagues, and practitioners.1 Wider community is defined as organizations, systems, and institutions.1 Each of the 3 areas have specific competencies. There are 12 total competencies among the areas of self, others, and wider community.1 Some of the competencies include MCH knowledge base, ethics & professionalism, negotiation & conflict resolution, and policy & advocacy. 1 To measure progress, trainees take a competency self assessment before beginning the MPH program and once completed.

Here at UIC, one unique way we are working towards MCH leadership is by utilizing Clifton Strengths Finder, a product of the Gallup Organization. If you’re unfamiliar with Strengths Finder, it is an online survey that asks questions about an individual’s likes and dislikes and provides responses on a Likert-type Scale. Individuals complete the assessment and in the end are provided with their top five strengths out of a total thirty four possible strengths. The underlying assumption of Strengths Finder is that each person innately has a unique combination of strengths that they bring to any given situation. Strengths Finder helps to identify those strengths to allow the individual to build on them personally and professionally. Each person in our first year MCH cohort completed the assessment. We each were provided with an outline of what our individual strengths meant, how they would serve us well personally and professionally, as well as some tools for personal reflection. Additionally, we were provided with a chart that highlighted every student in the cohorts strengths along with a quick guide to what each strength meant. Conversations took place about what characteristics were unique to each strength as well as tips regarding how to best work together both in the classroom and in the workforce. Utilizing Strengths Quest, or any similar assessment, is an excellent exercise because it utilizes positive psychology to provide a safe space to have discussions about teamwork and leadership while also giving individuals a starting point for individual reflection. Additionally, it provided us with a better understanding of our peers and increased appreciation for the strengths of others. It was an excellent addition to our academic training in the competency areas of self and others.

To find out more about MCH Leadership 3.0 visit:

To learn more about Strengths Finder visit:

1 MCH Leadership Competencies Workgroup. (2009). Maternal and child health leadership competencies version 3.0.

Written by Michelle Chavdar, Research Assistant and UIC MPH Candidate

Save the Children Event at UIC: Uniting for Maternal and Child Health

The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Maternal and Child Health Program (MCHP) partnered with Save the Children, UIC’s Global Health Initiative, The University of Chicago’s Global Health Initiative, and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine’s Center for Global Health to host a seminar at UIC on October 14th.  This was part of a three part lecture series where each university hosted an event that addressed various topics related to maternal and child health.

The keynote speaker was Steven Wall, MD, MPH, MSW, Senior Advisor, Save the Children, who discussed a report that was recently released by Save the Children entitled, “Surviving the First Day: State of the World’s Mothers 2013”.

Then the seminar focused on connecting the global to the local, and there were brief presentations by the following stakeholders:

  • Brenda Jones, DHSc, MSN, APN-BC, Deputy Director, Office of Women’s Health, Illinois Department of Public Health
  • Janine Lewis, MPH, Executive Director, EverThrive Illinois
  • Rosemary White Traut, PhD, RN, FAAN, Professor, Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science, UIC College of Nursing

The MCHP would like thank all our partners for such a great event!  It was a pleasure working with all of you and we look forward to working with you in the future!





MCH Seminar–Shattering Families: How Mass Incarceration Harms Parents and Children

On March 12, 2013, the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Training program at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) hosted the seminar “Shattering Families: How Mass Incarceration Harms Parents and Children.” This seminar featured two speakers: Gail Smith, Senior Policy Director at Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers (CLAIM), and a Visible Voices speaker. Visible Voices is a group composed of formerly incarcerated women who speak out and share their experiences with others. A diverse crowd of individuals from within and beyond the UIC School of Public Health assembled to hear these two speakers discuss issues related to the mass incarceration of all women and, in particular, of mothers.

Ms. Smith presented information on the scale of this issue, outlining the dramatic rise of incarceration in the United States over the past 40 years and how rates in this country are much higher than those in other developed nations. The female prison population grew by 832% between 1977 and 2007. About 80% of these women are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, and 80-85% of all incarcerated women are mothers. Ms. Smith outlined how this leads to several unique issues for the children of these women. For example, if a mother is her child’s sole caregiver, the child will be transitioned into the care of another family member or the foster care system. The latter is of particular concern since the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 allows for termination of parental rights if any child is in foster care for 15 of the 22 previous months. She then discussed how everyone impacted by the criminal justice system would benefit from a restorative justice approach, which focuses on healing rather than punishing. The Visible Voices speaker then put a face to all of these statistics as she shared a powerful, personal account of her experiences with the criminal justice system and how her incarceration directly impacted her sons.

For more information on this issue and to learn how to become involved, please visit CLAIM’s website:


This blog entry was written by MCHP student, Nicole Gonzalez who also organized this event.



Want to Know More About MCH?

The students in the University of Washington Maternal and Child Health
(MCH) Program and in other MCH schools of public health training
programs nationwide created a visual narrative of the public health work
and research they are doing in their communities. The presentation was done with the help of Charlotte Noble and the University of South Florida MCH Program.

You can view the presentation here.  If you are interested in engaging in work that improves the health and well-being of women, men, children, and families then you will enjoy this presentation – it may even give you ideas about how you can make a difference!

The stories help illustrate how MCH makes a difference in the lives of
women and children.

Training Opportunity for Graduate Students Interested in Children with Developmental Disorders


An Opportunity for Future Leaders Serving Children with Developmental Disabilities

The Institute on Disability and Human Development at UIC is excited to announce LEND training opportunities open to graduate students from the core disciplines of:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Child Psychiatry
  • Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics
  • Disability Studies
  • Family
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Pediatrics
  • Physical Therapy
  • Psychology
  • Public Health
  • Self-Advocate
  • Social Work
  • Special Education
  • Speech Language Pathology

The Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program, sponsored by the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, prepares future leaders who will serve children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities (with a focus on autism) and their families.  The LEND Interdisciplinary Training Program is a one-year training program that incorporates both didactic and experiential learning in clinical and community-based settings. A stipend up to $5000 per year will be provided.  Trainees will gain experience in the coordination of culturally competent family-centered care, the provision of public health services, and the implementation of policy systems change.  The didactics take place over 2 semesters starting August 2012 and ending May 2013 with clinical/community training available through June 2013.

Deadline to apply is May 11, 2012.

Family/Self-Advocate trainees are individuals with a developmental disability and/or individuals who have a family member with a developmental disability. A high school diploma or equivalent is a requirement to be considered for the Family/Self-Advocate traineeship.  Priority is given to graduate students in the above disciplines and family/self-advocates; however, recent graduates working in the field may also apply.  In order to receive a stipend, a trainee must be a US citizen or permanent resident.

For more information about the LEND program or to complete an application, please visit the IL LEND website or contact the LEND Project Coordinator:

Leslie Stiles


Leslie Stiles, MS, RD, LDN

IL LEND Project Coordinator

University of Illinois at Chicago

1640 W. Roosevelt Rd. #205A

Chicago, IL 60608


Cultural Competency: More than a Checklist

When I arrived at our MCH program’s cultural competency training. I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the program description there were terms that piqued my interest such as “ghost busting”, “time spirits” and “cultural transformation”. It seemed quite hyperbolic to describe a training to increase organizational effectiveness. But, one of my core values in the workplace is the well-being of all, so I felt like this would be an applicable training for me to attend.

The chairs were set in a U-shape. There were two chairs at the front. A large screen was there, but no projector equipment. I thought there would surely be some IT professionals arriving soon, because is there a such thing as a training with no PowerPoint? After having breakfast, Grace Flannery and Marita Fridjhon, our facilitators, briefly described our agenda for the day. We were to describe various “-isms” that we encountered in the workplace (both the ones that we project and the ones that we receive), in the morning session, and in the afternoon, we would come up with strategies in which we could address these –isms. It seemed relatively simple to me, but where were the bulletpoints, pictures, and lists that almost always accompany such trainings?

There were none. Grace and Marita used simple large post-its displayed on easels. We did have a program booklet to accompany the program, but it was mostly used as a reference to some key points. The purpose of the booklet was mostly to jot down some notes and to have something to refer to once the training was over. The 30 of us engaged in conversations, shared experiences, and challenged our own thought processes. The facilitators led us through a wide variety of moods; happiness, sadness, empathy, joy, pensiveness, to name a few. In the end, we learned that as a seemingly heterogeneous group, more of us were alike than we were different. We were armed with the tools we needed to personally influence those around us, by making an attempt to understand their background, before making judgments and thus having non-productive interactions with them. While it seemed to be a bit ambitious goal at first, I’ve truly become culturally transformed.

**NOTE:  We invite other attendees to share their stories.**

Written by: Bekeela Watson, UIC MCH, Graduate Education Coordinator

Photo: Bekeela Watson and Kris Risley, DrPH, CPCC,  MCHP Continuing Education Director & Clinical Assistant Professor (right to left)

Time Spirits and Cultural Transformation

On Friday, October 14, 2011 the UIC MCH Program in collaboration with the UIC LEND program, the Mid-America Public Health Training Center (MAPHTC), and the Wisconsin Pediatric Pulmonary Center (UW PPC) sponsored a day-long Cultural Diversity training at the UIC School of Public Health.  Typically, I do not participate in events that I am involved in planning; however, I did have the time to participate in this one.  I learned more about how Time Spirits are shared cultural constructs/beliefs that we share from any era of history and that continue to have an impact on us and our society (ie, slavery, Jim Crow laws, women’s experience of not being allowed to vote/own property/work outside the home, etc.).  I learned that -isms (racism, ageism, genderism, and some other -isms that we created words for [positionism, visualism]) are fueled by Time Spirits!

During this training, the 30 diverse participants explored four -isms (positionism, visualism, ageism, and genderism) and discussed how others discriminate against us using these forms of -isms and the impact this has on us both personally and professionally. I was in the visualism group with many others of different races/ethnicities and it was so interesting to be part of this small, diverse group sharing this common form of discrimination.  We talked about how just showing up invites people to discriminate against us (or at the very least try to make up all kinds of stuff about us simply by how we look and how this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts).  I’ve been dealing with this most of my life so I know there is quite a bit of healing for me to do in this area.  I was grateful to have the opportunity to realize just how painful this has been for me and to experience in a new way the tremendous impact this has had on me and my life path!

We then spent some time looking at the ways in which we individually discriminate against others – not an easy discussion!  This was another huge learning opportunity which gave me the chance to re-think how I want to show up in the world!  Again, so grateful for the learning.  Personally, this gives me a stronger foundation of understanding and more courage to do what has been in my heart for a long time!

Finally, we explored our ‘locus of control’ or where we might be able to use this work to influence our own behaviors and work and interactions and where we might have some sort of positive influence.  We also discussed where it was probably going to be impossible to have any influence.  My take-away message is that I will work where I can have some influence and trust that these baby steps are impacting systems but that it will take time to see systems-level changes (even though I trust they are happening)!  And, by the end of the day, I reconnected with old School of Public Health Colleagues and new colleagues to start a grass-roots effort to impact the culture in our own School of Public Health.  This was an unexpected outcoome!  All-in-all, a very productive, healing, and hopeful day!

**NOTE:  We invite other attendees to share their stories.**

Written by: Kris Risley, DrPH, CPCC,  MCHP Continuing Education Director & Clinical Assistant Professor

Photo: Bekeela Watson, MPH , MCHP Graduate Education Coordinator and Kris Risley (right to left)

MCH Faculty Serve As Editors of New Textbook

Congratulations to all the MCHP faculty members, alumni and students who worked on the recently published textbook “Reducing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Reproductive and Perinatal Outcomes: The Evidence from Population-Based Interventions”!

Despite the development of numerous programs, initiatives, and approaches to address the delivery of care during the preconceptional, prenatal, and postpartum periods, the major indicators of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in the US have not uniformly shown marked improvement over the last two decades; most notably, racial/ethnic disparities in key maternal and infant health status measures have remained persistent, and in some cases, even increased.  The focus of this book is to review the evidence base for public health interventions aimed at improving reproductive and perinatal outcomes and the potential of these interventions to reduce disparities in such outcomes between racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

For more information click here.

MCHP faculty, alumni and students who contributed to this book:
MCHP Faculty: Dr. Arden Handler (editor), Dr. Joan Kennelly (editor), Dr. Nadine Peacock (editor), Dr. Noel Chavez, and Dr. Michele Issel

MCHP Alumni:  Beth Pelletteri, MPH,  Anna Wiencrot, MPH,  Jaime Slaughter, PhD, Sarah G. Forrestal, PhD, Patricia Garcia, MPH and Suzanne Carlberg-Racich

MCHP Students: Ashley Dyer and Amanda Bennett, MPH

MCHB Life Course Resources

For additional information and resources related to Life Course, please visit the Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s website.