Input from the public is important to the administrators of the Maternal Child Health program.

An open house was held Thursday at the Finney County Public Library to give information to, and get feedback from, the public on the federally funded MCH program.

Chris Tilden, University of Kansas research project coordinator at the Center for Public Partnerships and Research, said the communication with the public is necessary to improve the program.

“We certainly want to ensure that we understand what concerns of people who receive these services are,” he said.

Every five years, the KU Center for Public Partnerships and Research in partnership with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment conducts a statewide needs assessment into the needs of women, infants and children to create a strategic plan guiding the MCH program, Tilden said.

This year they decided to gather the information in different ways, including surveys and public forums like the open house, to engage the public on key issues with the program, Tilden said, “It has substantial impact on health status of women, infants and children.”

Some of the questions they’re asking the public include the size of the health care workforce; availability of providers; affordability of health care; if the priorities of the MCH have been working and which are the most important.

Tilden said they’re also sharing health data statistics and asking what of the statistics are the most concerning, what’s the most important and how can the most progress be made.

In addition they’re seeking ideas, Tilden said. Some might be able to be integrated into the programming.

“We really want to make sure that the ideas, concerns of Kansans are represented in the five-year plan that is developed to provide services … around the state,” he said.

The comprehensive, five-year plan should be completed by late summer or early fall, Tilden said. The plan will be submitted as part of an application for federal funding for the MCH and will be posted on the MCH website for the state of Kansas.

“We hope it’s not a plan that sits on the shelf, we’re really looking at ‘are we making the changes that will help us see improvements?’ ” he said.

Leticia Arredondo, a RN and MCH director in the Seward County Health department, said she’s pleased an open house was held to get feedback.

“A lot of people don't know that this program exists, and I think in having projects such as this one, it helps educate our communities that this is available,” she said. “I'm super happy that they did this.”

Maria Lujan is also glad the open house occurred.

As a worker at the Russell Child Development Center, Lujan said she knows how important outreach can be.

“I think it's great that they're trying to reach out to the community and they're trying to provide more health information and to see what they are lacking in,” she said. “I think this is a good way to get the feedback from the community.”