Category: MCHP Faculty

Reframing Research on Women’s Bladder Health

When thinking about common public health women’s issues, bladder health may not initially come to mind. However, Dr. Jeni Hebert-Beirne and the Prevention of Lower Urinary Symptoms in Women (PLUS) Consortium are working to reframe the current approach to addressing women’s bladder health and lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) with an exclusive focus on prevention.

LUTS includes accidentally leaking urine, needing to go often during the day and having a strong and sudden need to urinate. In the U.S. 20-40% of women young and middle-aged are affected by these symptoms. LUTS increases women’s risk for other health issues such as depression, obesity and diabetes. While an issue that affects women’s lives, many may not feel comfortable actually discussing their symptoms let along seeking care. When symptoms reach the threshold of care seeking many women are confronted with health care providers who are unskilled and untrained in addressing their symptoms. LUTS have a significant economic impact on the health care system and on families impacted.  Therefore, the PLUS Consortium was formed, through funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as a transdisplinary research initiative comprised of experts from various fields across the country conducting studies that will guide future prevention and program research for LUTS.

As a member of the PLUS Consortium, Dr. Hebert-Beirne is launching the research by conducting a focus group study with women and girls across the country to understand how they learn about issues with their bladders and who they talk to about bladder health. These focus groups will prioritize special populations of women including those who work in occupations where they have little control over their bladders (e.g. factory workers), women who speak a language other than English and teens. Building off of Dr. Hebert-Beirne’s extensive work on social determinants of health, this research aims to understand bladder health in the context of women’s lives and through the life course model. Dr. Hebert-Beirne, who previously conducted research on bladder health through the Women’s Health Foundation, is enthusiastic about this NIH initiative. “I am drawn to issues that are ignored and the degree to which they impact people’s lives. Women are suffering in silence. Surgeons have been treating LUTS over and over without much success and are finally realizing we should move upstream.”

To prepare for the upcoming focus groups, Dr. Hebert-Beirne and PLUS Consortium partners at Loyola are holding a training at UIC-SPH this month for group facilitators from all over the country. This training will ensure that facilitators are equipped with the skills necessary to lead and encourage discussions with women on topics that they may not be used to openly discussing.

Information learned from the national focus groups will guide next research steps that may explore women’s social networks and how these networks relate to bladder health. Dr. Hebert-Beirne hopes to also expand this research to look specifically at LBTQ women, a group often ignored in the field. For public health researchers and students interested in research similar to the PLUS Consortium initiative, Dr. Hebert-Beirne stressed the importance of getting involved in community engagement efforts. “The [Plus Consortium] is taking the need for research that is community engaged and informed seriously…Community engagement is important to build an infrastructure in communities.”

To learn more about the PLUS Consortium visit

Written by Danielle Noriega, MPH/MBA Candidate

Attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference

3304ce9In January 2015, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, titled “United to Build Healthier Communities,” was an opportunity for me to network, learn, and go to Capitol Hill to advocate for the MCH Title V Block Grant.

On Saturday, I began the conference by attending a skills building session focused on community economic development strategies. This session emphasized collaborations, partnerships, and constituency building in expanding our MCH work to focus on economic development as a social determinant. At this session, a group of us from different sectors in Illinois brainstormed different ways in which economic barriers perpetuate inequities for Illinois families.

Other sessions that I attended focused on early childhood, MCH leadership, collaboration in policy and advocacy, systems thinking, and MCH 2015 policy issues. Since the conference brought together leaders from non-profits, universities, and state and local MCH programs, these sessions created rich discussions because of the various expertise and viewpoints. Often, these sessions were interactive and collaborative and I appreciated learning from the leaders of the sessions as well as the attendees.

Monday was the most rewarding day for me at the conference. After attending a session on 2015 MCH policy and discussing the funding needs of MCH programs, I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for Title V along with Dr. Arden Handler, Illinois Title V Director Dr. Brenda Jones, and LEND trainee Ryan Murphy. We visited both Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s and Senator Mark Kirk’s offices and met with their health aids. We shared information on the importance of the MCH Title V Block Grant and the impactful work happening in Illinois. In addition, we provided resources on UIC SPH’s MCHP program, the LEND program, and other Block Grant specific programs. It was a pleasure to attend this hill visit that Dr. Handler organizes annually. In Dr. Handler’s Advocacy and Policy course, I learned about strategic ways to advocate to a legislator, and this was a prime opportunity for me to practice with a pro!

Throughout this conference, I took advantage of the opportunity of being around so many MCH professionals by networking. AMCHP encourages state programs to learn from their regional peers and the region V (IL, WI, MI, MN, OH, IN) lunch was a chance for us to meet with and learn from these other Title V programs. However, by far, the highlight of my networking efforts was meeting Dr. Michael Lu, Associate Administrator of MCHB! He was a pleasure to speak with and was encouraging of my upcoming step into the MCH workforce. Overall, this conference was a huge success; I tackled my first lobbying experience, made some promising connections, and gained a deeper understanding of the network of Title V programs and the future directions of the Block Grant. I am thankful to UIC SPH MCHP for providing me the opportunity to attend this conference!

Written by Joanna Tess, UIC Maternal and Child Health 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!





“We are MCH”: Presentations about Maternal and Child Health

 Learn about the MCH field, our legacy, and the positive impact we have had on the health and well being of women, children and families.


The University of South Florida coordinated efforts with the Maternal and Child Health Training Programs to create Prezi presentations entitled “We Are MCH”.  Several MCH training programs (including our program) submitted pictures and quotes that were included in these presentations. The hope is to raise awareness about the field of MCH and the great work that is being done.


Click on the following links to view the presentations:



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.

A Student’s Journey to DC for the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference

Anne Cutler, Arden Handler, MCH students, and LEND trainees advocating at Mark Kirk's office for Title V programs and funding

Attending the annual AMCHP conference was a great experience for me.  As students, we were able to network and learn a lot, even by the first day!  On Sunday, I had the chance to see the official kick-off of the conference.  The first general session we attended was on the topic of the life-course model, which was led by Dr. Arden Handler and Amy Fine. We also had the opportunity to hear about how Indiana and Rhode Island were applying the life- course model to their state-level MCH programming. Later in the afternoon, we attended the welcome session with lectures from the newly appointed associate administrator of MCHB, Michael Lu; AMCHP’s director, Michael Fraser; and the John C. McQueen memorial awarded, Gail Christopher. All three talks were wonderful.  It’s great to hear from and also become familiar with the faces of the key leaders in our field. Along with this, I attended an adolescent health session about teen pregnancy prevention and a networking event for new conference participants where a fellow student and I got to meet the Title V Director of Texas. This was a great opportunity for me to apply my knowledge from our CHSC 511 MCH Systems course in order to understand the work that he was doing and maybe, even impress him a little!

Viewing the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in DC

The following day,  Dr. Handler invited students to go with her and members from the Illinois LEND program to advocate in Senator Dick Durbin’s and Senator Mark Kirk’s offices.  We advocated not to cut funding for the MCH Title V programs, as well as the LEND program.  This was a very unique experience for me because we all had the opportunity to speak to the Senators’ aids about what we are doing, how our programs are so valuable to us, and what impact these programs have on MCH populations.  Later that day, we attended the Region 5 meeting (which includes IL, WI, MI, MN, OH, IN) during lunch where we discussed hot topics among our states and other business-related issues that needed to be addressed.  Additionally, I went to an adolescent health session, where the first section was presented by a representative from Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) about a bill they are advocating for regarding comprehensive sex education in the state of Illinois.  This was great to see Illinois leadership at the conference and also see a particular focus on our home state.  The second section of the presentation was about a preconception health program implemented in North Carolina.  When listening to the speaker,  I found myself somewhat choked up by the examples of how students have felt so empowered to be given the opportunity to do program activities, such as create a reproductive life plan.  I think this is an excellent and successful MCH program.

On Tuesday, AMCHP also had a specific session about advocating for MCH programs specifically in our current times with reduced budgets and spending.  This was very useful for me and other students, especially as we are nearing graduation in May.

AMCHP also set aside additional time that afternoon for groups to go to the Capitol and speak to their respective representatives and senators. I thought this was a great way to develop a concrete skill in maternal and child health practice, as well as test my knowledge and understanding of maternal and child health issues.

All in all, attending the AMCHP conference was a great experience for me as a 2nd year graduate student at UIC.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go.  I think the biggest thing that I learned was how state leaders go about promoting maternal and child health programs, as well as providing an array of successful programs for MCH populations in their state.

By Elizabeth Bennetts, 2nd year MCH-MPH student

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

Professional Coaching: An Innovative and Promising Leadership Development Approach for MCH Professionals

By Kris Risley, DrPH, CPCC
Continuing Education Director, Maternal and Child Health Program, Division of Community Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

Hanna Cooper, MPH, CPCC, PCC
Public Health Consultant and Leadership Coach

Professional coaching, a process to maximize personal and professional development, is a relatively new but cost-effective and increasingly accessible leadership development approach available for maternal and child health (MCH) professionals. By incorporating coaching into the menu of professional development options available to MCH practitioners and scholars, we extend the breadth of professional training to include the personal aspects of leadership development that involves the life-long exploration and expansion of emotional intelligence (EI) which contributes to upwards of 80 percent of the success that distinguishes outstanding from average leaders (Goleman et al, 2002).

MCH leaders express knowledge and skills across a range of 72 MCH leadership competencies in 12 domains and three circles of influence including self, others, and wider-community (MCH Leadership Competencies 3.0) with the ultimate goal being that we actively engage in work that results in the significant improvement of the health and well-being of women, children and families. Professional coaching and coaching programs facilitate the development of MCH leadership competencies in the domains of Self-Reflection, Ethics and Professionalism, Critical Thinking, Communication, Developing Others Through Teaching and Mentoring, and Working with Communities and Systems.

Coaching builds EI by helping individuals to become increasingly self-aware and able to manage their emotions as well as increasingly socially aware and able to manage their relationships with others (Goleman et al, 2002). Individuals high in EI competencies are adept at self-reflection and assessing how their feelings affect them and their job performance, they rely on their internal value system to guide decision-making, and tend to be authentic and transparent in their interactions with others compared with those who have lower EI. Emotionally intelligent people are aware of their strengths and limitations, use empathy to relate to a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives, and they inspire others to move passionately toward a shared vision. Emotional intelligence may be the key factor to support MCH professionals as they navigate the high degree of change, challenge, stress and burnout present in the field.

There are many coaching programs and approaches available in the market-place. The best programs integrate adult learning approaches such as Transformational Learning Theory (TLT) (Mezirow et al, 2009) and they enhance EI. In TLT, learning is defined as transformation associated with challenging individuals to assess how their experiences interact with their existing value system and worldview. This compares with an informational learning in which new information is transferred from an expert to a student. For example, MCH scholars teach graduate students about the social determinants of health. Both are important and they serve different purposes.

Although there are many different schools of thought about coaching, professionally trained coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients improve their performance and enhance the quality of their lives. Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that already exists within the client. Coaching enables individuals to translate personal learning and insight into improved effectiveness; it increases linkages among self-development, leadership development and organizational effectiveness (International Coaching Federation, 2010).

Coaching can be applied in a variety of ways including:
• Developing leadership development and coaching programs for MCH professionals (contact Kris Risley at UIC for an example of how this is currently being implemented).
• Adding coaching to existing leadership and career development programs such as those in Schools of Public Health
• Offering coaching as an alumni or association member benefit
• Providing in-service coach training to integrate coaching as a method of engaging with students and colleagues

Whatever the method, coaching can be used as a leadership development method to support our field in achieving the Healthy People 2020 objectives for Women, Children and Families by helping individuals identify and fully express themselves and their unique passion and commitment to women, children and families.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R, & McKee, A. (2002). Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

International Coaching Federation,, retrieved December 1, 2010.

MCH Leadership Competencies Workgroup (Editors). (2009).Maternal and Child Health Leadership Competencies: Version 3.0.

Mezirow, J, Taylor, Edward W, and Associates. (2009). Transformative Learning in Practice: Insights from Community, Workplace, and Higher Education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

This article was featured in the January issue of PULSE: A Monthly Newsletter from the Association Of Maternal and Child Health Programs

Individual Professional Coaching
Individual sessions are available to AMCHP conference attendees at no cost. Conference attendees will have an opportunity to take advantage of individual, private 40-minute coaching sessions Sunday through Tuesday, February 13-15, by registering in advance or by registering on site. Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis. To find out more about coaching at the 2011 AMCHP Annual Conference or registering for an individual session, please contact Librada Estrada or call (202) 266-3046.

National Children’s Study: Dr. Handler PI for the Greater Chicago Study Center

Dr. Arden Handler, Co-Director of the Maternal and Child Health Program and Professor in the Community Health Sciences division at the UIC School of Public Health, is the principal investigator for the Greater Chicago Study Center of the National Children’s Study.

You can view a segment about the study on WGN and/or read the press release below.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin White at (847) 491-4888 or


Families can help researchers by providing information that is expected to improve the health and development of children for generations to come

CHICAGO — Why are so many babies born prematurely? Why do so many American children suffer from asthma, autism, obesity, behavior disorders and other health problems? Greater Chicago-area families have a unique opportunity to help better understand and prevent these conditions by participating in the National Children’s Study (NCS).

Starting this month, the National Children’s Study-Greater Chicago Study Center, which includes Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center, will begin enrolling Chicago-area pregnant women and women who may become pregnant in the study.

The study will then follow the children and their families from before birth until age 21 to help determine how family history and physical and social environments influence their health.

Feinberg received a seven-year, $32-million contract from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to conduct the National Children’s Study in the greater Chicago area.

“By participating in this study, women and their families can really contribute to understanding and improving the health of children in their neighborhoods and across the United States,” said Jane Holl, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Feinberg and attending physician at Children’s Memorial Hospital. “All information gathered will be held in the highest confidentiality and privacy.”

Four thousand participants in Cook, DuPage and Will counties will ultimately participate in the study. The research will focus on how key factors influence children’s health and well-being, including what they eat and drink, the air they breathe, the safety of their neighborhoods, their family history, who cares for them, and how often they see a doctor.

Specimens will be collected at birth and, over time, other samples such as blood and hair and in-depth cognitive, developmental, and physical health assessments will be collected, Holl said. Soil, water and other samples from the physical environment will also be gathered.

“We are never going to be able to effectively prevent childhood health conditions until we fully understand how and what contributes to them,” said Holl, the principal investigator of the study.

The National Children’s Study-Greater Chicago Study Center is one of 105 National Children’s Study locations around the United States. More than 100,000 children, representative of the entire population of American children, will be included in the study.

“There has never been a study as large or as long before,” Holl said. “Longitudinal studies about children have been done but none have gathered as much health information, as well as specimens from the children, parents, and the environment.”

Letters with more information are being mailed to households asking women and families to call the National Children’s Study-Greater Chicago Study Center to find out if they are eligible to participate in the study.

To find out more about the National Children’s Study-Greater Chicago Study Center, visit:

Potential participants can call:  1.866.315.7124

A life-long relationship with students-2010 Award for Excellence in Teaching

By Sherri McGinnis Gonzalez

Arden Handler, community health sciences: her true legacy will be her “amazing students and what they are going to do.”

The Award for Excellence in Teaching, a $5,000 salary increase, is UIC’s only peer-selected teaching award. Winners are chosen by those who received the award in past years.

“I love the research, I love the work that I do, I love advocacy,” says Arden Handler.

But she believes her true legacy will be her “amazing students and what they are going to do in the next 25 to 50 years.”

Handler is widely sought-after as an adviser and mentor to master’s and doctoral students.

“It’s a life-long relationship with a lot of these students,” she says.

She takes extreme pride in following their career paths.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see people progress, and you feel as though you somehow had responsibility for what they’re up to.”

Handler is known nationally as a teacher and leader in maternal and child health epidemiology. She also led the development of continuing education programs for practicing maternal and child health professionals.

She is co-director and principal investigator of the Maternal and Child Health Training Program and director of the Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology Program, both in the School of Public Health.

Handler, who began her career as a women’s health activist, didn’t plan on becoming a teacher.

When she was completing her doctoral degree at UIC in 1987, she created a course on maternal and child health policy and advocacy; she’s been teaching it ever since.

She often spends the entire summer revising and updating the course, “because when you teach policy you have to constantly be on the pulse.”

Handler strives to give her students a world view and context for what they are learning. She includes discussions of poverty, income supports, tax policy and the welfare system to help students understand the impact of socioeconomics on health.

Her research interests include the factors that increase the risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, and ways the health care delivery system, particularly prenatal care, can reduce these risks.

“Aristotle’s observation that excellence is a habit rather than a single event truly applies to all facets of Dr. Handler’s teaching career,” wrote colleague Bernard Turnock, clinical professor and director of community health sciences, in recommending her for the Award for Excellence in Teaching.

“Because I’m passionate, and very analytic in my thinking, I think I do a good job of pushing students to really push their limits,” she says.