What did we learn from those conferences? – Leslie and Salma report back.

Salma Abadin, MPH
Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow – 1st year
City of Milwaukee Health Department
Data You Can Use
Milwaukee, WI

Leslie Tou, MPH
Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellow – 1st year
Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families
MCH Program at the Department for Health Services
Madison, WI

Hi fellowship community! As you can see, we had to get a little creative with our interview since we work in different cities. We both attended conferences in April and wanted to highlight our experiences. We came up with seven questions to share some of our learnings and how attending the conference has impacted our work. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or want more information on either conference!

Salma’s report:

What conference did you attend?
I attended the Midwest Convening on Racial Equity in Chicago, IL on April 25, 2016. It was hosted by the Government Alliance on Race & Equity (GARE), which is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunity for all.

How will the information presented at the conference help your work?
For me, sometimes health equity seems unattainable, but attending this conference really helped me see the possibilities of success around health equity. People across the country are invested in working with each other to advance equity and enhance success for all. GARE provided their published Racial Equity toolkit as a way to operationalize equity. It includes a worksheet that can be used at multiple levels. The overall questions are:

1. What is your proposal and the desired results and outcomes?

2. What’s the data? What does the data tell us?

3. How have communities been engaged? Are there opportunities to expand engagement?

4. What are your strategies for advancing racial equity?

5. What is your plan for implementation?

6. How will you ensure accountability, communicate, and evaluate results?

They also provided examples from Seattle, WA and our very own Madison, WI, two cities that have used the tool. The City of Seattle passed an ordinance in 2009 that required all City departments to use the toolkit, in particular for all budget proposals. In 2015, the mayor of Seattle required departments to use the toolkit at least 4 times every year, and hopes to include aspects of the tool in performance measures. Applications of the Racial Equity Tool in Madison included adopting a new mission, vision, work plan, and evaluation plan with a racial equity lens in the Clerk’s office and incorporating staff and stakeholder input, racial equity priorities and to guide goals and objectives for strategic planning at Public Health Madison & Dane County. The toolkit has been a great way to start having conversations with my colleagues in Milwaukee about what we can do to use a health equity lens in our work.

What were other attendees’ backgrounds? Any tips on networking?
One of the goals of the conference was to "further cross-jurisdictional, cross-community, and cross-sector strategies for racial equity with partners in housing, criminal justice, employment, education, transportation, public health, immigrant groups, and environmental justice." Attendees worked in many of these arenas through communities, businesses, nonprofits, and government. The workshops were small (no more than 25 people) and interactive, so there was plenty of time to network and introduce yourself. I also knew a couple of people at the conference and that helped in being introduced to their colleagues and people in their networks.

What were some of your favorite sessions/posters/presentations?
My favorite panel discussion was entitled "Eliminating Institutional Racism in Criminal Justice." The conversation focused on how policing and the role of police leadership are changing. Paul Schnell, Maplewood, MN police chief, emphasized that police officers’ role is to create and build a stronger community, which he sees as a fundamental difference in the culture of policing. The measure of success is not the number of incarcerated individuals, but rather if he and his colleagues serve and support communities to be stronger and safer. One other interesting comment was that the idea of power around safety and policing is being redefined. Power needs to be given up and redistributed, and police authority is ultimately given by the communities they serve.

Was it everything you were expecting or did you hope to get something else out of the experience?
To be honest, I did not know what to expect. What I appreciated was the focus on shared learning and finding new partners and frameworks to help support or improve your work. Presenters and organizers of the conference offered tools and strategies to take back home and use in our own work. I’m excited to see what the follow-up from the April conference will be like because I left wishing the conference was longer than a day.

Any other takeaways?
There are an incredible number of people dedicated to achieving health equity work and they are willing to help each other. Several people attended from Milwaukee and we are planning to reconnect in the coming weeks to debrief on the conference and brainstorm ways to collaborate with an equity focus. It’s energizing to know that many people in Milwaukee are ready to work together and make health equity a reality.

What’s the next conference you want to attend?
I’ll be attending the NACCHO conference in July in Phoenix, and the theme is "Cultivating a Culture of Health Equity." I’m interested to see what the similarities and differences are from the Chicago meeting to the larger, national conference. Stay tuned J .

Leslie’s report:

What conference did you attend?
I attended the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) 2016 Annual Conference in Washington DC in April this year.

How will the information presented at the conference help your work?
I’m new to MCH work at the state level and I thought this conference was a unique opportunity to hear about up-and-coming- innovative strategies from different programs across the country, as well as hear from the federal level on updates and current policies around Title V funding. Title V is critical as it is the only federal program that focuses on mothers and children. You can find more information here.

In my fellowship, I am dual placement: I split my time between the Lifecourse Initiative for Healthy Families (LIHF) and the MCH Program at the Department for Health Services. I love how overlapping the positions are- there is a shared vision of health equity among all mothers and children in Wisconsin at the heart of both placements but there are obvious differences in state public health work versus university initiative work. I loved that the conference covered both these perspectives- state, governmental work as well as the community grassroots approach and the challenges, limitations and advantages that come with each. I really appreciated going to different presentations and workshops and having great takeaways for both placements. 

What were other attendees' backgrounds and professions?
AMCHP is a large, national conference that is predominantly attended by state health departments, research institutions and other organizations working to "to improve the health of women, children, youth and families, including those with special health care needs".

State Maternal and Child Health Programs (MCH) are well-represented at this conference as there is a huge focus on Title V programs. This conference serves are an effective way for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) to directly interact with state and local health departments and address programmatic changes, issues, and share success and lessons learned. This was my first national conference for US-based public health issues and it was wonderful to meet MCH professionals from all over the country. 

What were some of your favorite sessions/posters/presenters?
One of my favorite sessions was a skills builder session on "Implementing Universal Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Screening at a Community Health Center", led by a team from Santa Rosa Community Health Centers in California. I was struck by how they really seemed to "walk the walk" on the importance of mental/behavioral health as well as physical health. The panel represented three different clinics- a pediatrics clinic, a large hospital clinic and one located within a public high school, all part of the Community Health Centers in CA- all who have implemented universal ACEs screening.

The fundamentals seemed to be truly patient-centered and trauma-informed. They had signs up in all their waiting rooms that let clients know right away all would be asked these 10 questions and no one was being singled out for them. They had warm hand-offs with behavioral specialists for patients who screened high and would need further services. I thought it was especially interesting that the pediatrics clinic talked about how they ended up screening the parents of the kids as well sometimes and connected them with behavioral clinicians at sister sites.

Overall, I walked away feeling really inspired that this recognition of the importance of trauma and mental health has become a reality in this community.  

Was it everything you were expecting or did you hope to get something else out of the experience?
Similar to Salma, I really had no idea what to expect. For a first time attendee, I thought I got a lot of out of the conference (especially considering it was so quickly rescheduled after DC’s Snowpocalypse 2016!) I’ve only attended a handful of conferences and these bigger ones always feel a bit overwhelming. On the other hand, because they are so large, there are so many great presentations to choose from. I can say I was actually excited to go to all the workshops and seminars I signed up for!

Any takeaways?
There really aren’t any magic bullets for most of our public health challenges. I can only speak for myself, but I walked away feeling both tired and uplifted (which I know sounds very contradictory).

On the one hand- this work is so hard! Trying to address issues at a population level is rightfully complicated as communities are dynamic, living entities with so many intricate layers and pathways. There are no quick fixes for issues like poverty, racial inequities, or childhood trauma. It was uplifting to see shared recognition and universal concern over these issues in public health communities and honestly, relieving to see how everyone is struggling with how to successfully affect change.

What is the next conference you want to attend?
The next conference I am hoping to attend is another MCH focused one- CityMatch and MCH Epi in Philadelphia this September: http://www.citymatch.org/conference/citymatch-conference/2015/Home