American Indian mothers and children in underserved areas of the country are more at risk for health problems than most other populations. Health care professionals say a large part of the solution is to have more highly trained people in the specialized field of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) epidemiology.
Now a new program offered entirely online eliminates distance as an obstacle to graduate level education and certification in the maternal and child health care area. Students can access the program from their homes and workplaces.
The graduate certificate in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology is offered by the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) in partnership with the University of Arizona Zuckerman College of Public Health, the University of Kentucky College of Public Health and Indian Health Service, and indigenous population representatives in Appalachian Kentucky. The 15-credit, one-year program is designed to fill a gap in MCH epidemiology education of professionals who have limited resources and work in difficult settings with underprivileged communities. The program particularly hopes to enhance MCH expertise in the rural, isolated, and underserved in USET’s service area in 21 states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas.
“This certificate program is a fantastic opportunity for health care professionals who want to update and enhance their knowledge and skills in the development, implementation, and evaluation of MCH programs,” said Nichole Blackfox, USET’s Epidemiology Project Center assistant. Blackfox, who has extensive experience in epidemiology, immunizations and maternal and child health, manages the National Immunization Reporting System for USET”S 26 federally recognized Indian tribes.
The program is geared for nurses, health educators, physicians, psychologists, nutritionists, occupational therapists, social workers, dentists, dental hygienist, WUC staff and other health professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree. The curriculum includes three required courses: Basic Principles of Epidemiology, Maternal and Child Health, and MCH Epidemiology. Three additional elective courses can be selected from Evidence-based Methods in MCH, MCH Health Information & Data Systems, Cultural Competence in MCH, and Program Design, Implementation and Evaluation in MCH. Certificate holders are qualified for top level administrative jobs such as the directorship of a health clinic.
Graduates will acquire high level essential skills to effectively address maternal and child health population needs, including:
- an understand of the behavioral, biological, social, and environmental factors that influence health and illness in maternal and child populations
- the use of epidemiology tools for clinical or managerial decision-making
- the ability to monitor and evaluate of community-based MCH projects or programs
- how to conceptualize, develop, implement, and evaluate small-scale projects in MCH
- how to conduct basic epidemiological studies in reproductive and perinatal health and broad range of critical issues from the pre-conception, prenatal, delivery and post-natal periods.
- how to identify key components of project grant applications.
- how to access federal, state, and local government MCH data systems on women, children and adolescents that help guide practice decisions and monitor program performance
- how to identify strategies used to provide linguistically and culturally competent family-centered care, and analyze best practices in linguistic and cultural competence in the MCH field.
- how to use leadership strategies to work effectively at a community, state or regional level in the capacity of designing and advocating for programs and policies necessary to promote the health of women, children and families.
In addition, graduates will receive training in grant-writing, Blackfox said. More information and applications are available at www.mchepitraining.arizona.edu.
It’s important for students to file their applications as soon as possible, because the program has a limited number of scholarships available and they will be awarded to the first qualifying students whose applications are received.
The program is overseen by Dr. John Ehiri, PhD, Professor and Director of the Division of Health Promotion sciences, MEZCOPH at the University of Arizona. His recent book, "Maternal and Child Health: Global Challenges, Programs and Policies" is the first comprehensive textbook that is entirely devoted to the topic of global maternal and child health. He is the principal investigator of this graduate certificate program in MCH Epidemiology, which is funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The courses are taught by faculty members of the University of Arizona and the University of Kentucky.
The program is in its third year and has already graduated several dozen students, Blackfox said. Course work will start the first week of June. Participants have up to a year to complete the course. Given the online nature of the program, participants from anywhere in the US and around the world may sign up for individual courses that will be credited on their transcripts. That means MCH professionals anywhere can take specific courses that meet the needs of their areas without having to take the full certificate course.