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MCH Competencies

MCH Competencies

Trainings by MCH Leadership Competency

Use this page to find learning opportunities related to specific knowledge and skill sets identified for each of the MCH Leadership Competencies.


1. MCH Knowledge Base/Context

Overview: Maternal and child health (MCH) is a specialty area within the larger field of public health, distinguished by:

  • Promotion of the health and wellbeing of all women, children, adolescents/young adults, and families, especially in geographically isolated and economically or medically vulnerable populations. Particular attention is directed to the MCH population domains: maternal/ women's health, adolescent/young adult health, perinatal/infant health, children with special health care needs, child health, and crosscutting/life course.
  • A focus on individuals as well as the families, communities, populations, and systems of care in communities that support these individuals.
  • A life course perspective as an organizing framework that acknowledges distinct periods in human development and presents both risks and opportunities for interventions to make lasting improvements.

2. Self-Reflection

Overview: Self-reflection is the process of assessing the impact of personal values, beliefs, communication styles, cultural influences, and experiences on one’s personal and professional leadership style.

3. Ethics

Overview: Ethical behavior in professional roles includes conduct congruent with generally accepted principles and values. This definition includes general leadership ethics, such as honesty, responsibility, and cultural competency, as well as ethics specific to the MCH population.

4. Critical Thinking

Overview: Complex challenges faced by MCH populations and the systems that serve them necessitate critical thinking.

  • Critical thinking is the ability to identify an issue or problem, frame it as a specific question, consider it from multiple perspectives, evaluate relevant information, and develop a reasoned resolution.
  • Evidence-based decision-making is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence to guide practice, policy, and research. It is an advanced manifestation of critical thinking skills.
  • Implementation science is also a vital component of critical thinking in order to promote the adoption and integration of evidence-based practices, interventions, and policies.


5. Communication

Overview: Communication is the verbal, nonverbal, and written sharing of information. The communication process consists of a sender who develops and presents the message and the receiver who works to understand the message. Communication involves both the message (what is being said) and the delivery method (how the message is presented). Health communication is vital for influencing behavior that can lead to improved health.

Skillful communication is the ability to convey information to and receive information from others effectively. It includes essential components of attentive listening and clarity in writing or speaking for a variety of audiences. Other forms of communication, such as body language and tone, are equally important. An understanding of the impact of culture, language, literacy level, and disability on communication between MCH professionals and the individuals, families, and populations they serve is also important.

6. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

Overview: Negotiation is a cooperative process where participants try to find a solution that meets the legitimate interests of involved parties; it is a discussion intended to produce an agreement. Conflict resolution is the process of resolving or managing a dispute by sharing each party’s points of view and adequately addressing their interests so that they are satisfied with the outcome.

7. Cultural Competency

Overview: Cultural competence is a developmental process that occurs along a continuum and evolves over an extended period. It broadly represents knowledge and skills necessary to communicate and interact effectively with people regardless of differences, helping to ensure that the needs of all people and communities are met in a respectful and responsive way in an effort to decrease health disparities and lead to health equity. Becoming culturally competent is an ongoing and fluid process.

Health equity exists when challenges and barriers have been removed for those groups who experience greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; sexual orientation or gender identity; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.

8. Family-Professional Partnerships

Overview: Family-professional partnerships at all levels of the system of care ensure the health and wellbeing of children, including those with special health care needs, and their families through respectful family-professional collaboration and shared decision making. Partnerships with family-run organizations and with families and individuals from the target population honor the strengths, culture, traditions, and expertise that everyone brings to the relationship when engaged in program planning, program implementation, and policy activities in leadership roles in a developmentally respectful manner. Partnerships with these organizations can also help MCH leaders connect with families and youth from diverse backgrounds to ensure the perspectives of the communities who receive services are represented.

Historically in the field of MCH, the concept of family-centered care was developed within the community of parents, advocates, and health professionals concerned for CYSHCN, with the goal that all care is received in family-centered, comprehensive, coordinated systems.

9. Developing Others Through Teaching, Coaching, and Mentoring

Overview: Teaching, coaching, and mentoring are three primary strategies used to develop others.

  • Teaching involves designing the learning environment, which includes developing learning objectives and curricula; providing resources and training opportunities; modeling the process of effective learning; and evaluating whether learning occurred.
  • Coaching provides the guidance and structure needed for people to capably examine their assumptions, set realistic goals, take appropriate actions, and reflect on their actions (and the resulting outcomes or implications).
  • Mentoring is influencing the career development and professional growth of another by acting as an advocate, teacher, guide, role model, benevolent authority, door opener, resource, cheerful critic, or career enthusiast.

10. Interdisciplinary/Interprofessional Team Building

Overview: MCH systems are interdisciplinary/interprofessional (ID/IP) in nature. ID/IP practice provides a supportive environment in which the skills and expertise of team members from different disciplines, including a variety of professionals, MCH populations, and community partners, are acknowledged and seen as essential and synergistic. Input from each team member is elicited and valued in making collaborative, outcome-driven decisions to address individual, community-level, or systems-level problems.

Members of an ID/IP team may include a variety of professionals, MCH populations, family and self-advocate leaders, and community partners. The “team”, which is the core of ID/IP practice, is characterized by mutual respect among stakeholders, shared leadership, equal or complementary investment in the process, and acceptance of responsibility for outcomes.


11. Working with Communities and Systems

Overview: Improving the health and well-being of children, youth, families, and communities is a complex process because so many intersecting factors influence the MCH population. Systems thinking recognizes complexity and examines the linkages and interactions among components—norms, laws, resources, infrastructure, and individual behaviors—that influence outcomes. Systems thinking addresses how these components interact at multiple levels, including individual organizations; the collective stakeholders; and the communities where the children, youth, and families reside. The achievement of MCH goals requires leadership within the community and among organizations to advance the collective impact of stakeholders that constitute the larger system.

12. Policy

Overview: It is important for MCH leaders to possess policy skills, particularly in changing and competitive economic and political environments. MCH leaders understand the resources necessary to improve health and well-being for children, youth, families, and communities, and the need to be able to articulate those needs in the context of policy development and implementation.

A public policy is a law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, or voluntary practice of government that affects groups or populations and influences resource allocation.

This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under grant number UE8MC25742; MCH Navigator for $225,000/year. 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.