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Developing Collaborative Maternal and Child Health Leaders: A Descriptive Study of the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center


Purpose An assessment of the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center (the Center) was conducted to describe (1) effects of the Center’s training on the use of collaborative leadership practices by MCH leaders, and (2) perceived barriers to collaboration for MCH leaders. The Center provides services to strengthen MCH professionals’ skills in three core areas: Change Management/Adaptive Leadership, Evidence-Based Decision Making, and Systems Integration. Description This descriptive qualitative study compares eight interview responses from a sample of the Center’s participants and findings from a document review of the training curriculum against an existing framework of collaborative leadership themes. Assessment Systems thinking tools and related training were highly referenced, and the interviewees often related process-based leadership practices with their applied learning health transformation projects. Perceived barriers to sustaining collaborative work included: (1) a tendency for state agencies to have siloed priorities, (2) difficulty achieving a consensus to move a project forward without individual partners disengaging, (3) strained organizational partnerships when the individual representative leaves that partnering organization, and (4) difficulty in sustaining project-based partnerships past the short term. Conclusion The findings in this study suggest that investments in leadership development training for MCH professionals, such as the Center, can provide opportunities for participants to utilize collaborative leadership practices.

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The National MCH Workforce Development Center is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE7MC26282 for $1,837,391 with no support from nongovernmental sources. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. government. Special thanks to Lewis Margolis, MD, MPH of the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Karl Umble, PhD, MPH of the Department of Health Policy and Management for comments on drafts and support.

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Correspondence to Alina Nadira Clarke.

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Clarke, A.N., Cilenti, D. Developing Collaborative Maternal and Child Health Leaders: A Descriptive Study of the National Maternal and Child Health Workforce Development Center. Matern Child Health J 22, 17–23 (2018).

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  • Leadership
  • Workforce development
  • Collaborative leadership
  • Collaboration
  • National MCH Workforce Development Center