Hello from Washington DC, our nation’s capital and the stellar venue for this year’s Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) conference. Minnesota’s MCH program is certainly well represented in 2011: counting yours truly, we have six current students at the conference along with several gainfully employed graduates. Each morning we convene for coffee and plan our strategies, pens and programs in hand, splitting up the sessions and then going our separate ways. Advocacy, community outreach, data analysis, and policywork — we’re trying to cover a LOT of ground here, people, while also reporting to our colleagues and friends at home.
Some of the workshops have been more interesting than others, of course, but all of us agree that this conference is a great reminder of the important work ahead of us as MCH professionals. In every session, in every coffee chat, in the lobby and in line for the bathroom, we’re surrounded by passionate, articulate practitioners with substantial knowledge of public health both at the state and national level.
So, what are we hearing thus far? Well, incorporating the lifecourse seems to be a major theme, as does rethinking preconception health and transforming data into action. I’ve been hearing a lot more about “packaging” messages for policymakers and constituents, and honestly, this kind of market-speak makes sense, particularly as MCH leaders work with ever-shrinking budgets…
That, by the way, is the other big theme: budget cuts. Everyone I’ve spoken with is anxiously awaiting a decision on the proposed cuts to MCH block grants. As you may have heard, last week House Republicans recommended a 32% decrease in Title V funding — or $210 million dollars for fiscal year 2011. On Friday, those budget cuts were revised to 8% — but that’s still $50 million dollars in cuts to essential programs for our most vulnerable populations. So along with attending sessions, we’re writing letters and making phone calls to our elected officials, and we’d like to encourage you to do the same.
For a press release from the Congressional Appropriations Committee, click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=259&Month=2&Year=2011
And for a synopsis from Kaiser Health News, click here: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Daily-Reports/2011/February/12/GOP-health-cuts.aspx