MOBILE, Ala. -- Tony Bondora, MPH, works for the Mobile County Health Department as the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Coordinator and as the Alabama Baby Coalition Coordinator. An editorial he wrote was recently featured in City Lights, a newsletter distributed by citymatch, a national organization of city and county health departments' maternal and child health (MCH) programs and leaders. The mission of CityMatCH is to strengthen public health leaders and organizations to promote equity and improve the health of urban women, families, and communities.
Here's the editorial:
A young mother, whose baby recently died, sat nervously in front of me—her eyes anxiously darting around the room—wondering what would happen next? She had responded to my invitation to participate in a maternal interview, and she arrived on time. Knowing of her loss, I gave her my assurance that my goal was to help future women and their families avoid similar tragedies, but it seemed to go unnoticed. Bursting into tears moments later and revealing that she suspected her husband of killing her only child by smothering the infant in their bed, I knew in that moment that there was much more that I needed to learn about MCH.
In 2009, I was asked to join the inaugural class of the CityMatCH’s CityLeaders program. Honored, I accepted the invitation because I knew I needed more leadership training if I was to make a greater impact on MCH issues in my county.
My CityLeaders experience was unforgettable, and it gave me the confidence I needed to grow as an MCH professional. This program gave me the leadership training that many county-level MCH and FIMR programs lack. It became apparent that simply identifying MCH issues in my county was insufficient and that I needed to be able to inspire and lead others to make positive change in a more active way. Working with the mentor was my favorite part of the program. Realizing that senior MCH personnel working across the country were facing similar challenges that I was facing, helped me to better understand my own local challenges. Networking with other CityLeaders was invaluable and provided a much needed dialog about MCH challenges that was missing in my single person program at home.
I try to stay in touch with the friends and colleagues from CityLeaders when possible although it is not always easy. I feel it was a valuable program that instills the confidence and connections needed to succeed in MCH. I would recommend the program to anyone who is fortunate enough to attend.
I would like to think that I am now better equipped to handle MCH issues and to provide help and direction to parents like the young mother mentioned above and to use this experience to better understand MCH issues in my county.
ABOUT citymatch: CityMatCH was initiated in 1988 as a special project of the Boston Department of Health and Hospitals with the goal of improving the organization and delivery of services to urban families and children. Initial project activities centered on developing an information base on what major health departments across the United States were doing to address shared urban MCH problems such as increasing racial disparities in infant mortality, inadequate access to prenatal care, substance abuse in pregnancy, and interpersonal violence. The CityMatCH project, under the leadership of urban MCH program directors in cities across the county, evolved into a national organization in 1991.