Expertise and experience:
1. Advising and mentoring Amherst College students and young alumni who seek to explore and pursue careers in health.
2. Teaching (until December 2010 at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and as adjunct lecturer at UMassAmherst School of Public Health), mentoring, advising, dialogue, organizing, advocating, and experience to learn, practice, and pursue health in all its dimesnions. Has included courses on health disparities, and cultural and linguistic competence,
internships, independent study, research, seminars to build leadership capacity of young people and future public health work force.
3.
Synthesizing research on social determinants of health, resilience, traumatic childhood experiences, racism, chronic stress, and conditions for productive dialogue that will have a significant impact on future public health practice.
3. Translating this research into humane MCH and public health practice to improve the health of women and children, with systems that honor families, communities, and cultures.
4. Integrating cultural understanding and respect as a key strategy to end health disparities.
5. Changing the language of public health and medicine to better reflect our ideals and purpose.
6. Bringing multiple stakeholders together to untangle complex public health challenges and take collaborative action to solve them.

Service
1. Inspiring a new generation of leaders in public health and service through a wide range of local, national, and global opportunities.
2.
Until January 2011, consultation to individuals, communities, organizations to build capacity in the above, by
a) Inspiring keynotes, presentations, workshops.
b) Organizing forums to build essential but previously unlikely partnerships.
c) Serving as catalyst for intergenerational and cross-cultural dialogue.
c) Writing papers and grants.
3. Organization and facilitation of interactive meetings with broad stakeholder participation to unite diverse parties and spark action to create public health equity.

For more information, contact:
raaronson69@amherst.edu


"A smile is the light in the window of your face, which tells people that your heart is at home."
- Kolawole Bankole, M.D, M.S

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Language and Public Health

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

A goal of Humane Worlds Center is to help change the language of medicine and public health so that it better reflects the underlying ideals of these noble professions. Our use of words, as I learned so well from my freshman English class at Amherst College, defines how we all approach and actually think about life. Language itself determines how we receive, process, interpret, and provide output for our thoughts and, importantly, actions. Humane Worlds Center seeks to appreciate language as a foundation for creating conditions for the use of language in ways that resonate with people from diverse cultures, across boundaries. It’s important for us to explicitly acknowledge and address the widespread use of bureaucratic jargon, complex technical terms, unintelligible acronyms, and violence related metaphors that permeate the language and culture of society as a whole. It appears everywhere in our discourse, written and verbal. For example, we “target” just about everything and everybody, most of whom don’t take kindly to the idea of being targeted; we design policies, programs, protocols, and services to, say, “combat” violence, which certainly qualifies as an oxymoron; we figure out all kinds of ways to “fight” poverty; we design “interventions” on people and communities for campaigns, for example, to “attack” high rates of asthma and its “triggers”; we describe people as “high risk cases” to be “managed” rather than as human beings to be cared for; we fill grant proposals and electronic mail with “bulleted” talking points and confusing often bizarre acronyms; in medicine, we identify babies who “fail” a hearing screen as having birth “defects”; and in public health we use the epidemiological related meaning of “surveillance” in the post-9/11 era when such a word is widely perceived in a much darker context and linked to a real war; and of course we thrive on building “infrastructure”, whatever that non-specific and vague word means to the public. The uncritical and ubiquitous use of such words and terms, though largely unintentional, contribute to cultural norms that can undermine the purpose and ideals of public health and the quest for a culture in which education and democracy thrive. In the quest for health and healing, people and communities cry out to be honored, respected, and included in the design and implementation of systems to enhance their well-being. Indeed, the genius of public health, at its best, lies in its unique ability to honor and include such cries in whole systems change. But our dominant communication patterns have the opposite effect. Our challenge is to pay greater attention to such communication and, in the long view, to change our language so that it explicitly embraces and supports the quest for a culture that affirms the ideals of education and democracy. Through such a change, we can be in a stronger position to create and sustain humane public health policies and systems that honor the dignity of all people and that reduce unconscionable inequalities. Public health has a wide array of people from around the world who carry out innovative promising practices to do just that. Our calling is to make these practices systemic and enduring.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Public Health Conversation and Mentoring at Amherst Draws 35 Students

By Jodie Simms, Annah Kuriakose, and Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

We are delighted to share that the Public Health Event held at the Amherst College Career Center on December 5, 2008, was a huge success. Thirty five students with interest and passion for public health turned out for a 90 minute dynamic conversation with six alums (Dick Aronson '69, Alan Blum '69, Gary Forester '69, Anya Guyer '99, Molly Greene '01, Jesse Bump '94) and one faculty, Prof. Christopher Dole of Anthropology. Individual mentoring sessions of 30 minutes each followed, in which all six alums participated. Jodie and Annah have received lots of positive feedback from students who have said things such as "my eyes were really opened to new possibilities and to things I never thought of before, including ways to contribute to health besides medicine". One woman said it was the best event she had ever been to! Other words used to describe it were: exciting, inspiring, thought-provoking, motivating, helpful, fantastic, and powerful. We are grateful for the sharing of experience, knowledge, and ideals that happened. We hope that the energy that came from this event will spread into the future and awaken a stronger presence of public health at Amherst and beyond.




P.S Please let me know if you have any thoughts or suggestions of how we could make the event even better in the future!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

North Dakota Meeting Facilitation December 9 2008

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

On December 9, 2008, I facilitated an exciting meeting, "Uniting for a Healthy Future: Integrating Systems for North Dakota’s Children, Youth, and Young Adults", sponsored by the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities at Minot State University. The meeting took place in Bismarck and drew 35 diverse stakeholders, including several family members who shared inspiring stories of resilience, advocacy, and activism. The purpose of the gathering, funded in part by a federal grant from the United States Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Bureau, was to develop collaborative partnerships for creating integrated, family-centered, culturally competent systems of care so that children and youth with special health needs in North Dakota have the full equal opportunity to thrive in body, mind, and spirit. I helped the group 1) Identify common work efforts taking place around the state, that focus on advancing the medical home, cultural and linguistic competence, family involvement, and youth in transition to adulthood; 2) Build on current strengths of such efforts; 3) Identify how partnering on a shared vision may help enhance outcomes; and 4) Develop partnerships to sustain systematic efforts to build a healthy and productive child, youth, and young adult population in North Dakota. Broad participation of many stakeholders is essential for promoting medical home systems of care, and for assuring that integrated systems are in place to support youth with special health needs in their transition to work and adulthood. This kind of participation, rooted in core principles of cultural competence and family involvement, challenges us to develop new forms of collaborative leadership. This becomes even more urgent at times of economic crisis. Such leadership seeks to unite stakeholders and serve as a catalyst for essential but previously unlikely partnerships. It enables people to discover common ground for action that they did not realize they shared. Such discovery can bring dignity, hope, and equity to children and youth with special health needs and their families. To facilitate the day, I drew from Future Search, guiding the group through a series of small group activities (Mind Map, Prouds and Sorries, Ideal Future Scenario, Confirm Common Ground), each of which was followed by large group dialogue. Future Search, developed by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff, is a uniquely interactive planning tool that has been used with notable success during the past 25 years in many of the world’s cultures.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Public Health Dialogue Mentoring December 5 2008 Amherst College

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH, Jodie Simms, Annah Kuriakose

On Friday, December 5, 2008, at 2 pm, at the Career Center at College Hall, Amherst College, there will be an exciting innovative opportunity for Amherst students interested in public health to get concrete tips, contacts, and advice for applying their idealism to action.

A Public Health Dialogue: Multiple Paths to Work for Social Justice
and Healing
Friday, December 5th, 2008, Group Dialogue and Panel 2-3 PM, Individual Mentoring Sessions 3 – 5:30 pm Amherst College Career Center, College Hall

Description: Join us for a dialogue with alumni and faculty (Prof. Christopher Dole) who will speak about their experience in the public health field. Students are encouraged to bring questions and thoughts about opportunities in public health.

After the panel, from 3 - 5:30 PM, alumni panelists will be available for
individual advising/mentoring conversations with interested students. Sign
up in the Experience section of the Career Center Website:
http://amherst.erecruiting.com/er/security/login.jsp?returnto=/er/stu/calendar/career_center_calendar_view.jsp

To sign up you will need to upload a resume (a draft version is fine). If you need
assistance, please see a Peer Career Advisor, or contact the Amherst Career Center.

Individual sessions: Richard Aronson '69, Gary Forester '69, Alan Blum'69, Anya Guyer '99, Molly Greene '01

Public Health Leadership Workshop

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

During the past year, Humane Worlds Center has developed and refined a leadership workshop that draws on my 32 years of pediatric, public health, and public service experience. Also, it synthesizes several important bodies of research in a way that practitioners, families, communities, and future public health leaders can apply to their worlds. This workshop, which I presented at the University of Illinois School of Public Health MCH Leadership Retreat in July 2008 and at the American Public Health Association MCH Community Leadership Institute in October 2008, serves as a powerful catalyst for honest inter-generational dialogue about the future of public health. If you're interested, please contact me at raronson@verizon.net

Leadership, Legacy, and Community: Practical Tools to Transform Research into Public Health Practice

Creating equity and bringing an end to health disparities in Maternal and Child Health will require a radical strengthening of our capacity for interactive, visionary, and participatory leadership. Such leadership is needed to fuel, inform, and inspire sustainable and systemic change in order to reverse longstanding inter generational injustice. Such an effort is neither easy nor comfortable. It is a long-term process that challenges individual and organizational biases, promotes opportunities for shared learning, and respects and strengthens the voices of all, especially those of the children, families, and communities directly affected.

This workshop will:
1. Briefly highlight areas of research that are starting to form the foundation for an evidence-based practice for transformative leadership strategies needed to create equity and justice in MCH: A) The life cycle perspective to MCH. B) Biological effects of chronic stress. C) The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study. D) Resiliency at multiple levels. E) Social capital; and F) Conditions for productive dialogue and action.
2. Propose for consideration a set of assumptions that characterize leadership practices that show promise of success in reducing disparities, whether related to services, research, and/or teaching:
 a. Honor and respect the dignity of all people involved, and of their cultures.
 b. Consider that everyone is an "expert" and honor all voices, especially those who have historically not been included in the design of the policies that affect them.
 c. Include families and communities as equal partners from start to finish.
 d. Use simple and clear, non-jargon, and non-bureaucratic language and other communication.
 e. Draw on the strengths, resiliency, and resources of all people involved.
 f. Collect, follow, analyze, and use data in an honest, clear, and accurate way that is faithful to the core functions of public health.
 g. Build and sustain public and political will for action.
 h. Move from a paradigm of “eliminating” disparities to one of “creating” equity for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender, religion, and nationality.
 i. Act with the knowledge that behind every statistic, every risk factor, and every preventable death is a real human being, with all the complexity, vulnerability, magnificence, and potential for good that is in each of us.
 j. Stay relationship-centered, that is, carry out the work within a context that appreciates the vital role of loving and thoughtful human relationships in promoting health, safety, and justice.
3. Give specific examples of leadership development that strive to integrate the research and the assumptions into practice.

Summary
The transformative leadership model of the kind presented at this session represents a process where we bring key stakeholders together and get the whole system in the room, thus forming new partnerships and coalitions needed to make an impact on MCH disparities and inequities. This process fosters the conditions for discovering common ground while at the same time celebrating and tapping into the richness of our diversity. It makes it possible for all of us to confront our fears, biases, and denial and move to help each other reach a deeper understanding of the underlying root systemic factors that underlie the major MCH challenges of our time. It has the potential to unite us by discovering that we have much more in common than we previously believed. The challenge is to put into practice a style of leadership that includes but goes beyond traditional historical models of public health. It seeks to foster environments in which children and families not only survive but also have the opportunity to grow and thrive and live compassionate, productive, and dignified lives.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Amherst College Public Health Event January 24 2009

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

As a pediatrician specializing in maternal and child health, my work has focused on honoring and respecting cultures, communities, and families in promoting the health and well being of children and youth; and in promoting strong partnerships and collaboration among multiple stakeholders to address public health issues, challenges, and disparities. In recent years, with the Humane Worlds Center I have turned my focus to teaching and mentoring, with a special focus on inspiring a new generation of public health leaders to carry out their work with skills rooted in collaboration, cultural respect, community empowerment, and taking action with a context of shared vision and common ground. This teaching and mentoring has been incredibly exciting, given the surge in interest in public health on college campuses such as Amherst, and the underlying passion to work to promote social justice in the world. I have been working on a unique project with two seniors at Amherst College, Jodie Simms and Annah Kuriakose, who are helping me start the Humane Worlds Center, a new organization whose purpose is to inspire and inform a new generation of leaders in public health to create the conditions for people to have full and equal health in mind, body, and spirit. To that end, with the Amherst College Career Center (Carolyn Bessett) and Center for Community Engagement (Molly Mead), we had a public health career panel and one-on-one mentoring on campus on March 28 and 29, 2008. Over the summer, I had two Center for Community Engagement interns, Jodie and Chenlan Bao '11, at the Humane Worlds Center. This fall of 2008, working with Jodie and Annah, we have organized a second public health conversation and mentoring session that will take place on Friday, December 5, 2008, at 2 pm at the Career Center. Our next big project is an exciting interterm event at Amherst that we are going to have at the Keefe Campus Center at Amherst College on January 24, 2009. It's a full one-day conference on public health and Amherst: Public Health and Amherst College:Mobilizing the Power of Communities to Improve a Society's Health
The goal is to start to establish an ongoing student-led public health presence on campus. To that end, we want to devote January 24 to an exploration of: What is public health? What are the key public health issues at Amherst College? How can Amherst students strengthen their capacity to work in true partnership with communities? What does it mean to work in a spirit of collaboration with families and communities? The January 24, 2009, meeting will focus on strategies, both at Amherst and beyond, needed to equip students with the capacity to:

1) Change how we think about public health to embrace every facet of our lives;
2) Create forums for dialogue that lead to effective action on local and global health inequities; and
3) Humanize and dignify the services and policies that relate to public health.

The sponsors are the Dean of the Faculty, Career Center, Center for Community Engagement, Class of 1969 Project, and Humane Worlds Center. See the description below, which I have also attached. The web link on the Amherst web site is:

https://www.amherst.edu/campuslife/interterm/courses#Public%20Health

We really want the January 24 event to bring together a diverse group of stakeholders from Amherst, surrounding communities, and public health in a spirit of collaboration and respect for each other's voice and unique contribution. Future Search (www.futuresearch.net) is a unique planning method, which has been used with notable success in many of the world's cultures, and which I have had the privilege and opportunity to practice for the past 15 years in the world of public health. This approach unites people from diverse walks of life, gives them a voice in shaping humane systems, and lays the foundation for action to create healthy communities. What differentiates Future Search from most strategic planning methods are its four principles, synthesized by Weisbord and Janoff from 75 years of social science research:

* Get the "whole system" in the room-those with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need-all in the same conversation.
* Explore the whole before seeking to fix any part. Each person has a part of the whole. When all stakeholders have the chance to put in what they know, each has a picture that none had coming in, and they can plan together in a shared context.
* Put common ground and future action front and center. Problems and conflicts become information to be shared, not action items.
* Set up meetings so people can do the work for themselves. With self-management and personal responsibility encouraged, groups are capable of doing much more than they are usually asked to do.

We will use principles from Future Search to guide our meeting.

Please contact me if you are interested in taking part: raronson@verizon.net or 207 623 3366.

Working to ending Inequalities in Infant Mortality

Ending Inequalities and Creating Equity in Birth Outcomes

There is a large and unconscionable disparity in the rate at which African American and white babies die in the United States. In Wisconsin, black babies are four times more likely to die during their first year of life. To help address this, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health hired the Center’s founder and director, Richard Aronson, M.D., M.P.H., to review the research and promising practices on birth outcome disparities, and make recommendations for a special initiative by the University. Read his report at http://wphf.med.wisc.edu/specialinitiative/index.php and a presentation that he gave at a Wingspread Conference held in May 2008, at http://wphf.med.wisc.edu/specialinitiative/wingspread.php.

Future Search Conference on Home Births

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH, and Jodie Simms

Planning a Future Search Conferenfce on Home Births in the United States

Humane Worlds Center is helping to organize and facilitate a Future Search Conference (www.futuresearch.net) on home births in the United States. It will be a multi-disciplinary consensus conference of key stakeholders around the provision of home birth services in the United States, to be convened by the University of California San Francisco and various organizations, including the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of Certified Nurse Midwives, Mothers and Midwives Associated, Lamaze International, Association of Women Hospital Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and the International Center for Traditional Childbirth. Further, it is hoped that public health practitioners and students, insurers, government agencies, health economists, medical anthropologists, state and national legislators, and women who have given birth will be among the eventual participants. The purpose of the conference is to start to bridge the "divide" between the medical and midwife communities over out-of-hospital births in the United States. Safety of birth in any setting is of utmost priority. Rights to choice and self-determination and culturally appropriate healing are also core values in American discourse that influence this issue. The purpose of this multidisciplinary conference of key stakeholders will be to craft a consensus policy and strategy on provision of home birth services. The project may also inform regulatory discourse, alternative funding structures, and the required modifications of curricula to prepare physicians and midwives in urban, rural and remote settings to provide maternity services across birth settings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mentoring in Action

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH, Annah Kuriakose, and Jodie Simms,

Mentoring is central to the purpose of Humane Worlds Center. Mentoring college students interested in public health, when done well, can provide the seeds for a lifetime of leadership and service to make the world more just and equitable. Such justice and equity is essential to the optimal health of the public. Students who hunger for real world experience in working for social justice can find a rich variety of options in the public health profession. Good mentoring can have a positive, if not inspirational, impact on a student's life. It can equip the student with tools that she can use to make the decision for what to do upon graduating. Putting a student in contact with people who offer additional help along the way is a vital part of the mentoring process. Students are often filled with many ideas about what they are interested in and how to make a difference. Good mentoring provides the help needed to move forward in specific ways, and to focus one's dreams and ideals into something concrete. Mentoring can help solidify goals, and open new doors to reach those goals.

To that end, with the great help of the Career Center, we have organized a public health dialogue and mentoring session at Amherst College on December 5, 2008. Five Amherst alumni and one faculty member will be available at that time to answer questions, discuss concerns, and provide individual mentoring sessions. The announcement follows.

From the Amherst Career Center:

Get this on your calendar - it's a wonderful opportunity...

A Public Health Dialogue: Multiple Paths to Work for Social Justice and Healing
2-3 PM Friday, December 5th, 2008

Join us for a dialogue with alumni and faculty who will speak about their experience in the public health field. Students are encouraged to bring questions and thoughts about opportunities in public health. After the panel, from 3 - 5:30 PM, some panelists will be available for individual advising/mentoring conversations with interested students. Sign up in the Experience section of the Career Center Website. To sign up you will need to upload a resume (a draft version is fine). If you need assistance, please see a Peer Career Advisor, or contact the Career Center.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Public Health and Amherst College January 24, 2009

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH, Jodie Simms (Amherst '09), and Annah Kuriakose (Amherst '09),

We are delighted to announce an exciting event at Amherst College on January 24, 2009. If you'd like to be part of it, please contact one of us (raronson@verizon.net, jsimms09@amherst.edu, akuriakose'09@amherst.edu):

Public Health and Amherst College:
Mobilizing the Power of Communities to Improve a Society’s Health
Date: Saturday, January 24, 2008
Times: TBA
Location: Friedmann Room, Keefe Campus Center, Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Sponsoring Department/Office: Amherst College Career Center, Amherst Center for Community Engagement, The Dean of Faculty, Amherst Class of 1969 Project, Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health
Instructor/Facilitator: Dr. Richard Aronson, MD, MPH '69, Jodie Simms '09, Annah Kuriakose '09
Contact: Jodie Simms (jsimms09@amherst.edu), Annah Kuriakose (akuriakose09@amherst.edu)

Description:

This conference will bring together various groups invested in public health, including students, faculty, staff, practitioners, educators, and community members. It will be an action-oriented dialogue on promoting public health awareness, education, and action at Amherst College and beyond. Some topics which will be discussed are: What is public health? What are public health issues that affect Amherst College and the surrounding community? And how can diverse stakeholders work together to create conditions under which all people have the full equal opportunity to thrive in body, mind, and spirit. The day will conclude with a specific action-oriented focus on 1) Strengthening public health partnerships between Amherst College and the surrounding community, and 2) Starting to establish an ongoing student-led public health presence at Amherst.

Monday, November 3, 2008

APHA MCH Leadership Institute 2008

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

On the weekend of October 25-26, 2008, I had the opportunity to once again participate, as faculty, in the Maternal and Child Health Community Leadership Institute of the American Public Health Association. The Institute took place at the APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego, California, and this year focused on MCH issues and challenges in the Carribbean. A team of 10 public health practitioners and students from Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, and Guyana took part in a fascinating dialogue on leadership related to the public health issues unique to these countries. After reviewing the key areas of research that have important implications for mobilizing the power of communities, I presented the Future Search principles and engaged the group in an exercise rooted in these principles.

The purpose of the Maternal and Child Health Community Leadership Institute is to assist MCH program coordinators, program managers, and MCH advocates in developing and honing their leadership skills to effectively address the health concerns of women and children. The Institute, started in 2000, helps build capacity within each team (participants) in order to strengthen the MCH infrastructure within their community. This course provides a forum for the exploration of new paradigms, and new ways of approaching some of the complex and long-lasting issues related to improving maternal and child health for all populations. Overall the Institute is a part of APHA's continuing efforts to address one of its key priority areas--eliminating racial/ethnic health disparities. Despite efforts in MCH, research still shows that the healthcare needs of women and children are not being met. In order to address these issues of inadequate care faculty members will employ an intersectoral approach that addresses a community's "social and human capital," to assist leaders, citizens, and communities become active participants by diffusing and applying acquired social and scientific knowledge and integrate this new information into evidence-based public health practice. MCH leadership and its key attributes will be defined and methods to apply these skills will be reviewed as well as real time application (framed by the MCH Leadership Competencies). The necessary skills both from theory and practice, such as their ability to promote the health and well being of women and children or their genuine commitment, are assessed. How to be an effective MCH leader is discussed and participants are shown ways to hone or improve their skills. "MCH Leadership competencies: Working with communities and systems" are incorporated in order to promote community engagement, and this is the part that I served as faculty for. This is includes developing the relationships and dialogue between community members and those in leadership roles. This collaborative process should promote exchange of information, ideas, and resources. This course will provide participants with the knowledge to adequately define “what is a community” and demonstrate the necessary skills needed to engage the community. Participants are not only exposed to best practices but also given the opportunity to learn practical skills and develop an action plan to implement once they have returned to their communities. Ultimately, through their collaborative work, these teams will create sustainable and replicable efforts that improve the quality of life for mothers and children in communities worldwide.

Oklahoma Child Abuse Retreat Keynote

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

Humane Worlds Center will present the keynote address at a Statewide Child Abuse Retreat for Oklahoma on November 5, 2008. The event is sponsored by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), Family Support and Prevention Service, and the Oklahoma State Interagency Child Abuse Prevention Task Force (ITF).

The following is from the program agenda:

Presentation by Dr. Richard Aronson, MD, MPH
Director of the Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health

Dr. Aronson will focus on how society has a vested interest in seeing that all children do well, that they thrive in mind, body, and spirit; and that we all benefit when children grow up to become healthy, productive, and compassionate adults. The interests of society as a whole – indeed, its very security – depend on the health and safety of our children. They ride on the extent to which we invest in children as our most precious resource and in parenthood and childrearing as the most important of all “occupations”. As Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis said, “If you bungle raising your children, nothing else in life matters very much.”

Dr. Richard Aronson received the 2007 Ray E. Helfer, MD Award, presented by The National Alliance of Children's Trust and Prevention Funds and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Aronson is a Board-Certified pediatrician with 30 years of service and leadership as a public health and medical professional, and currently serves as the Director of the Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health in Maine. Dr. Aronson's career includes a decade of clinical pediatric practice as a developmental pediatrician, 15 years of Future Search facilitation, and senior level leadership in the Vermont, Wisconsin, and Maine State Health Departments since 1983. He has led numerous statewide efforts to prevent child abuse in Maine, as well as held clinical faculty positions in Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Aronson earned his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1974, during which time he obtained a one-year fellowship to work with malnourished children in Cali, Colombia, and a master's degree in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1988.

Youth Leadership Training December 2008

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

Humane Worlds Center is involved in a number of exciting events in the autumn of 2008. Here is one of them:

Leadership and Communication: Taking a Closer Look
Leadership Development Series for Youth Ages 14-22 with Special Health Needs and/or a Disability
December 13, 2008
9:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.
Senator Inn, 284 Western Avenue, Augusta, Maine

This day included a three hour leadership learning session, which I had the privilege of facilitating, for 20 youth with special health needs and/or a disability who might be interested in joining a regional or state Youth Advisory Council in Maine, USA.

In the Leadership session, I facilitated a dynamic learning conversation about the differences between people. Dialogue, with active participation by the youth and their parents, focused on how sometimes we use differences as a way to divide ourselves from each other, or to act in ways that hurt others. By understanding how this kind of behavior works, we discussed in small groups and large group dialogue how we can become better at treating others in the same way that we expect to be treated. Through a powerful video, "A Class Divided" and conversation using a Future Search , we started to understand prejudice: not as something that only some people have, but as something that we all may show in communicating with others. By understanding how we all have a tendency to be prejudiced, we can learn how to listen to each other with respect and treat each other in ways that are fair. Some of us have experienced prejudice merely because of our health issues or disability. The overall goal of our experience together was to learn how to stay positive in all your communications by:
• Understanding how each of us is unique in how we view our world, and how that makes a difference in how we listen and communicate with each other?
• Understanding the meaning of culture and how it applies to us?
• Getting involved in a leadership role in Maine on issues that affect youth with disabilities and/or special health needs.

The announcement of the event described Dr. Aronson in the following way: Dick lives in Hallowell, Maine. He is grateful for the wonderful opportunities for education and inspiration that he has had throughout his life. Dick is deeply committed to peace, social justice, and equality for all people. He is especially dedicated to making the world better and more humane for children and youth. He has aspired to put his ideals into action through his leadership as a healer (pediatrician) and public servant (public health needs). He really enjoys teaching that engages everyone in interactive dialogue, and conversation in which all voices are deeply respected.

Co-sponsors: The Maine Support Network on behalf of Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Maine CDC, Children with Special Health Needs (CSHN).

On-site facilitators: Mal Cyr, Pam Flood and Corda Kinzie.

This workshop was designed for youth ages 14-22 with Special Health Needs and/or Disability.

Follow-up questions: Call or text Mallory Cyr at US +1 2075761980 Call or email mallorycyr@hrtw.org

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Humane Worlds Center Core Values

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

We embrace the following core values as the foundation to create humane worlds for children and families:

1. Honor the dignity of all children and families, and of their cultures.
2. Consider everyone an “expert” on their own experience.
3. Include women, youth, families, and communities as equal partners at all times.
4. Communicate with clear, non-jargon, non-acronym, and non-bureaucratic language.
5. Draw on peoples’ strengths, resilience, and resources.
6. Use data in an accurate way that is faithful to the art and science of public health.
7. Build public and political will for action.
8. Move from a paradigm of “eliminating disparities” to one of creating equity, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender, religion, geography, and nationality.
9. Recognize that behind every statistic and risk factor is a real human being with all the complexity, vulnerability, magnificence, and potential for good that is in each of us.
10. Stay relationship-centered. Encourage networks of social connectedness in promoting health and justice.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Child Abuse as a Public Health Issue

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt articulated a governmental and societal responsibility for the health and safety of the nation's children. He stated that "each child represents a potential addition to the productive capacity...of the nation or, if allowed to suffer from neglect, a potential addition to the destructive forces of a community". Roosevelt made clear that society has a vested interest in seeing that all children do well. We all benefit when children grow up to become healthy, productive, and compassionate adults. The interests of society as a whole - indeed, its very security - depend on the welfare of our children, and ride on the extent to which we invest in children as our most precious resource. Roosevelt, in effect, was making the case, with which I strongly agree, that the prevention of child abuse and neglect, in all of its manifestations, is fundamentally a public health issue that should be front and center on our agenda as a nation and a world.

The stakes are high. A study conducted by Vincent J. Felitti and Robert Anda at Kaiser Permanente’s Department of Preventive Medicine revealed that “adverse childhood experiences are vastly more common than recognized or acknowledged, and [they] have a powerful relation to adult health a half-century later.” The child abuse categories of the Adverse Child Experiences (ACE) Study were: physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Other ACE's included in the study were an alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household; an incarcerated household member; someone who has severe mental illness; mother treated violently; one or no parents; and emotional or physical neglect. The study revealed that a survivor of four or more of these adverse childhood experiences has a higher likelihood of smoking, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, using intravenous drugs, and attempting suicide. Depression and obesity were also found more likely among individuals with exposure to childhood trauma.

This study’s findings highlight the public health urgency and challenge to prevent childhood trauma and, when it happens, to promote healing. We turn, for example, to Emmy Werner’s groundbreaking research on resilience. The Kauai Longitidunal Study followed 700 high risk children born in 1955 on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, addresses two fundamental questions: 1) What are the long-term effects of adverse perinatal and early child-rearing conditions on physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development in mid-life? 2) Which protective factors allow most individuals who are exposed to multiple childhood risk factors to do well in adulthood? The study followed a group of high risk children who had been exposed to chronic economic poverty, birth complications, parenntal psychopathology, and family discord as well as comparison groups.

The news from the study was, on one hand, good. A loving home environment makes all the difference. The long-term outcomes depended, increasingly, on the quality of the child-rearing environment and the emotional support provided by family members, friends, teachers, and adult mentors. One out of three who seemed headed for “disaster” didn’t turn out that way. These individuals, in addition to the quality of the child-rearing environment, had the following protective factors: 1) Charisma! They had an ability to be self-confident and attractive to other people. “Look, I’m worth something.” They took responsibility for themselves and others from an early age. 2) Self-efficacy: I can make things happen. I can make a difference. 3) At least one loving consistent adult. 4) Mentor: A teacher, coach, or other adult is extremely important. As Jacqueline kennedy Onassis once said, "If you bungle raising your children, nothing else in life matters very much".

On the other hand, the research by Werner and others highlights the urgency and necessity of putting our resources into programs and services that create humane worlds for children. We need to back up our words about investing in children with action and policy at all levels. All children benefit from humane resilience promoting systems in education, child care, health care, and parent support. Home visitation programs, when carried out under specific criteria, have been shown to prevent child abuse. Andd yet our society is lacking in its commitment to providing these and other services to all families.

Research on social support shows that a child needs someone who is absolutely crazy about him or her. But research also shows that youth and adults need that level of intimacy too. Thus, to prevent child abuse, for example, adults must have their own close relationships that encourage and support them to engage in safe parenting practices. Otherwise, a program to prevent child abuse is bound to fail.

The Humane Worlds Center provides consultation to communities, organizations, and others who seek to translate research, some of which I have reviewed above, into humane and culturally competent strategies to prevent child abuse.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hope, Resilience, and Health

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH (For consultation, contact raronson@verizon.net or call 207 215 7317)

Growing into adulthood with a firmly rooted sense of hope is basic to the capacity of our species to feel healthy. To nurture hope in children is a central task of parenthood.

Human beings can live for roughly 8 to 12 weeks without food, 8 to 12 days without food and water, 6 to 8 minutes without oxygen. But without hope, a certain kind of spiritual death is immediate. And so it is that an inscription found on a cellar wall in Germany written by a Jew in hiding from the Nazis contained these words: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining, I believe in love even when there is no one there, I believe through any trail there is always a way. And I believe in God when God is silent.”

So our challenge as a society and as public health leaders is to grow services that inspire hope in children. Instead of systems that pathologize, categorize, and lump people into a dizzying array of risks, diseases, and disorders, we need systems that honor children, families, communities, and cultures; celebrate their resilience, creativity, and capacity to heal; that does justice to research showing that a central determinant of health is the extent to which we feel connected to each other and to our communities. Relationships and civic engagement are to health what location is to real estate.

Such connections represent a deep well of protection from stresses and adversity, including traumatic adverse childhood experiences (See the ACE Study). The key questions for public health leaders to address are: How can we create humane environments, i.e. worlds, that make it natural for such bonds to form? How can we design systems to inspire, from childhood on, deep civic and community engagement? Our responses to these questions, and how new public health leaders are equipped to face them, will have a profound impact on the worlds that future generations experience. Humane Worlds Center is here right now to guide communities, organizations, and young people in that quest.

- From a Presentation given by Dr. Aronson at the Amherst College Class of 1969 Alumni Reunion, May 2004

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Humane Worlds Center Services Provided

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

The Humane Worlds Center specializes in:

1. Synthesizing research that will have a significant impact on maternal and child health practice over the next 50 years: A) Social determinants of health. B) Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. C) Resilience. D) Life Course Perspective. E) Brain development. F) Chronic stress from racial discrimination and other inequality. G) Conditions for productive dialogue.
2. Translating this research into humane MCH and public health practice and leadership.
3. Integrating cultural understanding and respect into MCH and public health as key strategy to end disparities.
4. Changing the language of public health to better reflect our ideals and purpose.
5. Bringing multiple stakeholders together to untangle complex public health challenges and take collaborative action to solve them.
6. Inspiring a new generation of leaders in public health and service.


We offer the following services:

1. Consultation to individuals, communities, and organizations to build capacity in the above. Includes A) Giving presentations and workshops. B) Organizing forums. C) Writing papers and grants.
2. Teaching, mentoring, and leadership. Includes A) Individual and group mentoring of college and graduate students exploring public health and service. B) Classroom instruction. C) Internships to give experience and build capacity of young people for public health leadership and service.
3. Organization and facilitation of interactive meetings with broad stakeholder participation to unite diverse parties and spark action to create public health equity.

Please contact me if you're interested:

raronson@verizon.net
207 215 7317 Cell
207 622 8822 Office

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Amherst College and Humane Worlds Connections

Amherst College's Citizen Summer Program

Another really great partnership between Amherst and the Humane Worlds Center has been established through the Community Engagement Center this summer. They have started a new program called the Citizen Summer Program, which is supporting and encouraging students to engage in public service work. Around 200 students are being sponsored this year to be able to participate in internships across the globe. These students are working locally, regionally, nationally, and globally with non-profit organizations. In the spirit of Terras Irradient, this opportunity allows students to not only make a difference in the world but let the world have a large impact on them.

It was through this program, Richard Aronson '69 and I (Jodie Simms '09) were able to meet and work together this summer, along with another great Amherst student, Chenlan Bao '11. Together, we have worked this summer to try and help build the foundations of the center from Richard's initial vision. Since the Humane Worlds Center is focused on promoting public service and leadership in youth, this connection between the college and the center is a very valuable one which will hopefully continue and grow into the future.


Personal/Reflective Note:

----From my prespective, as a student intern, I am overwhelmed with how incredible an experience this internship has been. I am learning more than I ever thought possible in such a short amount of time and I am meeting absolutely amazing and truly inspiring individuals who are in the business of community building and making the future brighter for all. Learning from these sort of real-life applications and mentors in my field of interest are exactly what I need at this point in my life. I am looking forward to continuing this work, supporting the Humane Worlds Center throughout my life, and watching it grow. As well as bringing back everything I've learned to share with the Amherst community, in my last year.

Thanks to all the individuals who I've met along the way...

Jodie

Friday, July 25, 2008

Research Foundations for Humane Worlds Center

By Richard A. Aronson, MD, MPH

Creating equity and ending health disparities in Maternal and Child Health will require a radical strengthening of our capacity for interactive and participatory leadership. Such leadership is needed to reverse longstanding injustice. Such an effort is neither easy nor comfortable. It is a long-term process that challenges individual and organizational biases, promotes opportunities for shared learning, and includes all who have a stake in the outcome. The Humane Worlds Center seeks to develop such leadership, especially among those aspiring to public health and service.

The Center draws on eight bodies of research that are coalescing to form the foundation for the practice of such leadership. They are:

1. Life Course Perspective for Maternal and Child Health
2. Stress and Biology
3.Early brain development
4.Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
5.Racism and Race as an Independent Stressor
6.Resilience

7. Conditions for productive dialogue and action

8. Social Connectedness


An overview of these eight bodies of research and a review of promising practices to reduce birth outcome disparities was part of a 2008 paper written for the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health Partnership Program.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Amherst College Humane Worlds Center Connections

On October 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave a remarkable address at a special Convocation as part of the ground breaking ceremonies for the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachussetts, USA. In his remarks, President Kennedy said, “Privilege is here, and with privilege goes responsibility.”

From the light of that autumn day, I am honored and humbled to serve as the Director of the Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health. We are a member of the Future Search Network. I view this Center as an opportunity as a way to carry on Amherst’s commitment to its historic mission, Terras Irradient, and to carry out the legacy, challenge, and hope that President Kennedy posed to the Amherst community 45 years ago. I have tried, humbly, to always be in a learning Terras Irradient mode in partnership with communities to untangle the complex tough roots that underlie public health disparities - social injustice and inequities. I have learned, taught, and practiced service that is highly collaborative, honors all voices, celebrates diversity, discovers common ground, and inspires people to realize their deepest aspirations. In 1993, I discovered the remarkable alignment between these ideals and the principles and methods of Future Search, and since then have sought to bring the two together in practice.

Through this service, I have discovered common threads that unite people from all walks of life and, at the same time, respect their uniqueness. I continue to learn how to serve in ways that bring out the best in people and tap into the capacity of our species for creativity, healing, and cooperating for the common good.

Much of the vision and practical action that forms the foundation for the Humane Worlds Center has its roots from my Amherst undergraduate years, and more recently the Class of 1969 Project led by Justin Grimes. At Amherst, I had the privilege to organize and lead Amherst Amigos, a Peace Corps-like project in which teams of students lived and worked in rural Mexican villages. I became active in the Mount Toby Friends Meeting, took part in the Amherst Peace Vigil, and tutored students in Easthampton. For the summer after graduation, I was among the first group of counselors for the the then brand new Amherst ABC Project, whose rich legacy at the College and in the Town continues to this day.

At its best, Amherst College uniquely inspires its students to enlighten and change the world. At its best, Amherst nurtures a passion to live and work for the common good and, through community, to keep hope alive. The final verse of the “Hymn to Amherst” has always touched me to the core:

“In the love of Amherst hearts abides her greatest glory,
As the future still imparts the old unchanging story,
Youth and beauty, learning, faith,
Bound by friendship’s charter,
To the College we have made with eye and mind and heart.”

How this small college, in a once remote New England town, uniquely has the capacity to produce men and women of conscience and ideals is both mysterious and purposeful, a tribute to the vision of its founders and those who followed. I rejoice in this capacity.

Through the Humane Worlds Center, building on the successful record of Future Search and drawing from eight bodies of research, we strive to inspire a new generation of leaders in public health and service throughout the world. The Center works with partners, from private and public sectors, including Amherst through the Center for Community Engagement, to improve the health of women and children. We hope to provide students with opportunities to grow as leaders who will do no less than change the world. We intend to foster conditions and opportunities for idealism without illusion to thrive.

As a Religion Major at Amherst, I studied the theologian, Paul Tillich, and came across a passage that has stayed with me ever since. “He who risks and fails,” Tillich wrote, “can be forgiven. He who never risks and never fails is a failure in his whole being.” People with the courage to confront injustice are risk takers. Amherst, at its best, encourages its students to take risks, and to challenge the status quo, not only in the external world but also within ourselves. The Humane Worls Center supports such courage and seeks to enable it to grow. At Amherst, we learn to question, probe, and engage in a lifelong search for authenticity and hope, all of which are key to a healthy mind, body, and spirit. With a combination of thoughtful, passionate, and practical idealism topped off by a healthy dose of humor, we embrace Amherst in embracing the Center and the quest for such health.


Terras Irradient,

Dick Aronson, Amherst Class of 1969

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Humane Worlds Center Origins

For many years I have practiced a form of participative planning and leadership uniquely suited to the task of making the world a better place for women and children. In the course of doing this work, I have discovered common threads that unite people from all walks of life. I’ve seen people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives – such as social workers, physicians, nurses, child care specialists, teachers, clergy, government officials, employers, youth, and families - come together, plan, and carry out extraordinary action steps to heal themselves and their communities. This form of leadership, which we intend to bring to a new generation of leaders, is at the heart of the Humane Worlds Center for Maternal and Child Health.

From this work I became convinced that we all hunger for a world where dignity and respect prevail for everyone. Instead of systems that pathologize, stereotype, and lump children and families into a dizzying array of risks, diseases, and disorders, we aspire to humane practices that honor all people. Our species, when provided the right conditions, has a remarkable capacity for creativity, healing, and cooperating for the common good.

From 1991 through 2007, as a senior public health executive in the States of Wisconsin and Maine, I sought to mobilize people to improve the health of mothers, children, and families. The purpose of public health, as defined by the Institute of Medicine, is to fulfill society’s interest in fostering the conditions under which all people can be healthy. Public health seeks to assure that all people have the opportunity to fulfill their potential to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. A central commitment of public health is to end health inequalities and protect human dignity and rights. Maternal and Child Health (MCH) seeks exactly the same goals. We work to create sustainable systems and services to enable families and communities provide children with the care, love, dignity, and respect that they need.

We are now creating a new entity to bring together in a shared task of societal change people throughout the world who share commitment to this sector, and to young people who seek a home to nurture and make real their ideals for service. Humane Worlds for Maternal and Child Health is a new Global Center of the Future Search Network (www.futuresearch.net). It is intended to bring the loftiest vision of public health into the lives of children and families everywhere. It is our aim to equip families, communities, and society with tools to create the conditions under which all children have the opportunity to survive and thrive. We will do this in a focused, persistent, and empowering way (Future Search) that has been successful worldwide, and brought about long term changes with relatively modest investments.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Humane Systems for Early Childhood in Maine

Much of the philosophy and approach of the Humane Worlds Center grew out of the work done in Maine to promote humane systems for early childhood. Today we took part in the monthly meeting of the Governor's Early Childhood Task Force, chaired by First Lady Karen Baldacci and facilitated by Sheryl Peavey, who directs the Early Childhood Initiative. See the excellent website that Sheryl created and that reflects the commitment and team work of many people in Maine from diverse sectors. A Future Search Conference on Early Childhood in Maine, held in Hallowell, Maine, in January 2005, played an important role in defining the state's current plan and action.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Potential Future Search Conference in South Africa!


Notes from our first conference call:

Monday, June 30, 2008
90 minute call, 20 participants from around the world, including 3 in South Africa, a participant from the Netherlands, Canada and all over the US. Participants also included 4 students from Amherst College and professionals in a wide range of fields including physicians and consultants.



Purpose of Call:
Start to explore in a broad way the possibility of a Future Search Conference in South Africa on Maternal and Child Health in 2010 or 2011. The Future Search Conference, and the planning that leads up to it, would help lay the foundation and plant the seeds for Humane Worlds for Child Health: A New Global Center of the Future Search Network (FSN). It would build on the inspiring Future Search Network (FSN) Learning Exchange that took place in Johannesburg in November 2007, graciously hosted by Dumisani Ncala, John Goss, Tamara Sutila, and Aria Merkestein, Also, today’s call will explore the potential for youth and young people to play an important role in developing and planning for this conference, as well as in other activities of the Center.

Humane Worlds would like to explore with our South African colleagues, friends, and partners the potential for a Future Search Conference there in 2010 or 2011 to bring diverse groups together to focus on Maternal and Child Health and to set a long-term direction for the Center. All of this is in a preliminary explorative phase.

Agenda:
1 Welcome and Introductions
2 Mission and Vision of the HWC and the Future Search Network
3 Brief Introduction to Future Search Methods and Principles
4 Connections with Amherst College : Summer Internship Program of the Amherst Center for Community Engagement, Dream for Democracy , Class of 1969 Project .
5 Connections with South Africa: Future Search Network , Cotlands Project, Dream for Democracy, Global Camps Africa, others.
6 Dialogue on a Future Search Conference in South Africa on MCH and the future of the Humane Worlds Center: Initial thoughts, ideas, dreams, issues, complexities.
7 Next steps: What actions and further conversations are needed to proceed? Who else to include? Further information needed? When to reconvene?
8 Close: Feel free to briefly share learning or impression from today, and how you would like to be further involved. Or feel free to take some time and get back to me. Please send your full contact information

Key Points from the Call:
  • We should be sure to include and not duplicate the vast efforts which are all ready underway in South Africa.
  • Identifying a diverse group of stakeholders and participants with primary leadership in South Africa will be one of the most important steps in the planning process.
  • It is important that everyone is in the room and everyone has their voices heard throughout the process of planning and beyond.
  • We should be careful not to go into this effort with the attitude of "helping" people. We need to be open to learning from each other.
  • Building a grassroots level organization is paramount.
  • The Learning Exchange in 2007 which took place in Johannesburg, inspired continuous work in community based projects.
  • Dream for Democracy: Started in October 2007 by 3 Amherst College students. Focus on citizen and civic engagement, open dialogues about democracy through the power of students’ debate and discussion. Works to educate, engage, and empower youth.
  • Cotlands: A children's home in 3 different locations of South Africa. The only hospice for children born with HIV/AIDS.
  • Global Camps Africa: Summer camps for children and youth. A successful program seen as a vehicle for social change, especially changing attitudes towards HIV/AIDS.
  • Important to connect with students, especially at the universities in South Africa
  • Funding and developing a planning committee need to be addressed.
Overall it a really great first meeting. Thank you to all who participated!

Next meeting will be scheduled by Dick for the coming months...




Organization

Organization

The Center has a strong connection with the Future Search Network (FSN), which strongly supports and is fully committed to its long-term success. The Network was founded in 1993 by Marvin Weisbord and Sandra Janoff as an international non-profit program of Resources for Human Development, Incorporated (RHD). RHD is a large (501) (C) (3) human services umbrella organization based in Philadelphia, USA. FSN delivers uniquely innovative and effective planning services around the world in any culture, in any language, for whatever people can afford. Its 350 volunteers work on everything from community development, education, health care, employment, housing, and youth issues, to sustainability in business firms and communities. The Network runs hundreds of conferences for communities, schools, hospitals, and non-profits and has a notable track record in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, India, and North and South America.

Future Search Network also has worked with the United Nations Development Program on disaster risk reduction and with UNICEF in many countries on improving the lives of children, notably in the Southern Sudan where it helped to free thousands of children from involuntary soldiering, and in Indonesia where it helped to decentralize a bureaucratic school system. The three day Future Search conferences have led to years of ongoing collaboration, way beyond what people expect from a single meeting (Weisbord M, Janoff S, Future Search, 2000; Weisbord M, Janoff S, Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There, 2007; Schweitz R, Martens K, Future Search in School District Change, 2006; Weisbord M, Productive Workplaces Revisited, 2004).

Successful Record

Successful Record

The Center builds on the 20 year record of positive results from Future Search planning meetings held around the world, facilitated by Future Search Network members (there are 350), and documented in many books and articles. Here are a few examples:

1) Collaboration between tribal chiefs and military leadership led to the demobilization of 2,500 Southern Sudanese child soldiers.

2) The combined energy of residents from seven Hawaiian towns, once alienated from one another, became committed to building and sustaining a healthy community in body, mind, and spirit.

3) A new dedicated revenue stream of $50 million per year for the City of Seattle, Washington, emerged from a 2020 Vision Campaign to Meet Basic Human Needs by 2020 and Eliminate Institutional Racism; and the woman who led the Campaign received the 2008 Leadership Legacy Award from the Center for Ethical Leadership.

4) Statewide awareness of the human and financial benefits of investing early in pregnant women and young children became a cultural norm in Maine, supported by the Governor and Attorney General.

5) Over a period of nine years, new partnerships linking community leaders, families, state and local public health, and health care systems set the stage for a commitment of public and political will to reduce black infant mortality in Wisconsin, where African American babies are four times more likely than white babies to die in the first year of life.

6) In Bolton, United Kingdom, children became increasingly involved as an integral component of the City’s School Community efforts to make “Every Child Matters” a reality.

7) New funds were leveraged for parenting education and child care in New Mexico.

8) A plan for health coverage for all people in Vermont was signed into law in 2006.

9) The Nevada Public Health Foundation was established.

10) The Colorado River Headwater Forum, a non-profit organization of diverse stakeholders formed from a Future Search in 1991 (documented in Discovering Common Ground). This group cooperatively developed a Water Quality Plan approved by the state of Colorado and continues to meet and work together on issues that matter to them, despite their history of law suits and contentiousness.

11) The Ute Mountain Ute Reservation’s Future Search included a shared vision of a youth center with tutoring and other services and activities for the youth on this Indian reservation. A summer visitor subsequently procured a 5-year grant of $10 million from the U.S. Department of Labor, and the vision became a reality.

12) Long festering racial tensions in Berrien County, Michigan, transformed into economic development to attract new businesses and open affordable housing.

13) Improvements in water quality occurred in Pakistan.

14) Credit cards were introduced into Eastern Europe.

15) Coalitions formed to address the AIDS epidemic in South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana.

Funding and Activities of the Center

Funding and Activities of the Center

The activities of the Center for the next three years (July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2011), are to:

1. Plan, implement, and conduct follow up on two Global Future Search Conferences to be held in 2010 or 2011: one in the United States and one in South Africa. The purpose of these Future Search Conferences is to plan and set in motion action on the Center’s long-term future and sustainability. Thus, the development of the Center itself will be in alignment with our core values and with the Principles and Methodology of Future Search.

2. Hire 3.0 Full Time Equivalent Center Staff to carry out the initial work to lead, organize, manage, and coordinate the Center in its three core functions of service, teaching, and research.

3. Establish a global data base of MCH related Future Search Conferences and their outcomes,

4. Recruit an Advisory Committee,

5. Form deep partnerships with and among diverse people and organizations whose involvement in the Center is essential,

6. Provide internships throughout the year to undergraduate and graduate students.

7. Develop and pilot an experiential curriculum for students at Amherst College and other colleges and universities.

8. Secure funding.

We expect that with this three year effort, the energy and commitment to leverage long-term funding sources will enable the Center to sustain itself across generations.

Functions of the Center



Functions

We embody service, teaching, and research. Our intention is weave leadership development into all aspects of these functions:

Service

1) Outreach and training to communities, organizations, and other entities that seek innovative participatory approaches to address seemingly intransient health disparities.

2) In-depth help to communities in planning and facilitating Future Search Conferences.

3) Comprehensive consultation to all groups and individuals who are seeking to deepen their leadership for creating health equity for the MCH population.

Teaching

1) Serve as a teaching and learning resource for communities to develop their skills in applying the Center’s Core Values and Principles to the tough and complex issues of health inequity affecting their children and families.

2) Starting with a partnership with Amherst College’s Center for Community Engagement in 2008, provide students in higher education throughout the world with individual and group opportunities to take part in experiential learning to equip them with lifelong tools to use in public service leadership of any kind.

Research

The Center is a learning laboratory. We view all of our actions as opportunities for learning. We documenting program outcomes and evaluating effectiveness. We contribute to the knowledge base for strategies that work. To ensure increasingly effective practice, we build quality assurance development into our work.

Method

Method

We serve as a global service, learning, and research center for creating humane and equitable systems for children and youth. To do this, we draw on Future Search, a planning and leadership method, which has been used with notable success in many of the world’s cultures. We use Future Search principles and meetings to unite people from all walks of life. We give them opportunity and voice in shaping humane systems. We lay the foundation for action to mobilize communities to face MCH challenges. What differentiates Future Search from most strategic planning methods are its four principles, synthesized by Weisbord and Janoff from 75 years of social science research:

  • Get the “whole system” in the room—those with authority, resources, expertise, information, and need—all in the same conversation.
  • Explore the whole before seeking to fix any part. Each person has a part of the whole. When all stakeholders have the chance to put in what they know, each has a picture that none had coming in, and they can plan together in a shared context.
  • Put common ground and future action front and center. Problems and conflicts become information to be shared, not action items.
  • Set up meetings so people can do the work for themselves. With self-management and personal responsibility encouraged, groups are capable of doing much more than they are usually asked to do.


Core Values

Core Values

We embrace the following core values:

  • Honor the dignity of all children and families, and of their cultures.
  • Consider everyone an “expert” on their own experience.
  • Include youth, families, and communities as equal partners at all times.
  • Communicate with clear, non-jargon, non-acronym, and non-bureaucratic language.
  • Draw on peoples’ strengths, resilience, and resources.
  • Use data in an accurate way that is faithful to the art and science of public health.
  • Build public and political will for action.
  • Move from a paradigm of “eliminating disparities” to one of creating equity, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, gender, religion, geography, and nationality.
  • Recognize that behind every statistic and risk factor is a real human being with all the complexity, vulnerability, magnificence, and potential for good that is in each of us.
  • Stay relationship-centered. Encourage networks of social connectedness in promoting health and justice.

Vision and Goals

Vision

Our vision is to bring the highest ideals of public health into the lives of children and families everywhere and to improve their health by:

1) Humanizing the worlds that they experience;

2) Changing how we think about public health to embrace every facet of their lives;

3) Creating forums for dialogue that lead to effective action on global health inequities; and

4) Educating and inspiring a new generation of public service leaders to carry on this work in the long term.

Goals

We seek to

1) Create equity and end MCH disparities by radical strengthening of the capacity of all concerned parties for participatory leadership.



2) Involve young people in all aspects of our operation, so as to educate and inspire new leadership in public health.



3) Set foundations for societal changes to make equity and justice in MCH a reality.



4) Challenge individual and organizational biases.



5) Respect all voices, including those historically marginalized.



6) Promote opportunities for shared learning.

Background and Purpose of the Center

Purpose

Those of us invested in public health face global challenges in dealing with maternal and infant mortality, violence in all forms, obesity, mental illness, and other issues. Our objective is to create a world more humane and equitable for women and children. To make progress, we need broad participation of many stakeholders, which requires new forms of leadership. The Center for Humane Worlds (CHW) for Maternal and Child Health (MCH) intends to provide that leadership. The Center delivers collaborative planning services to people everywhere who care about future generations. It provides educational opportunities to those who want to learn and practice such leadership. Our method of choice is Future Search which has been used worldwide for 25 years to stimulate unprecedented action.

By this means we seek to unite stakeholders and serve as a catalyst for essential but previously unlikely partnerships. Our intention is to enable people to discover common ground for action that they did not realize they shared. Such discovery can lay the foundation for leadership needed to bring dignity, hope, and equity to women and children. We seek to move away from systems that thrive on pathology, medical diagnosis, and risk reduction. Instead, we envision systems that derive their power from resilience, trust, and community. Our species has a remarkable capacity for healing and cooperating for the common good. The purpose of CHW is to mobilize that capacity. In so doing, we equip a new generation of leaders with lifelong tools to actualize their ideals.


Public Health

Our purpose in public health, defined by the USA Institute of Medicine and World Health Organization, is to foster conditions that assure optimal health in mind, body, and spirit. We commit to ending health inequities and protecting human dignity. In MCH, we seek to change social conditions so that children experience humane worlds. Such worlds help meet basic needs and support their safety and well being.