Early Childhood Systems

The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Program is addressing eight priority areas identified from the MCH 2010 needs assessment by using a systems-building approach and the Life Course Approach. 

The MCH Program defines Early Childhood Systems as local public health departments working with community partners to build and integrate services and supports that promote optimal physical, mental, and social health and development of all children and their families. Important features include:

  • Emphasis on Life Course Theory and the importance of early childhood
  • Collaboration across agencies and partnership with broad-based stakeholders
  • Coordination and non-duplication of efforts
  • Accessibility and equitability for those at highest risk
  • Accountability
  • Quality improvement processes
  • Ability to make best use of limited resources and sustain efforts over time

Why Are We Building Early Childhood Systems?

  • Early Childhood Systems are a fundamental component of improving maternal, child, and family health.
  • Agencies, stakeholders, and partners working together in a coordinated way are likely to have a greater impact than one agency working alone.
  • The health care environment is changing. The primary purpose of Title V, particularly in light of the Affordable Care Act, is not to provide comprehensive health care services – services that were needed when the Title V MCH Block Grant was originally passed in 1935. Today the focus is on population-based and systems-building services. This shift maximizes the reach of Title V dollars with the intention of using limited resources efficiently.
  • The federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau and other states are moving in this direction!

What Do Early Childhood Systems Look Like in Wisconsin?

Keeping Kids Alive – Local health departments work with partners to establish a Child Death Review or Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Team. Teams collect and review data to identify and recommend community prevention activities.
Wisconsin Healthiest Families – Local health departments work with partners to build and integrate services and supports to address child development, mental health, safety and injury prevention, and family supports.

What Is the Role of the Local Health Departments within MCH Early Childhood Systems?

  • Local health departments play an important role within Early Childhood Systems. They:
  • Prioritize local health department objectives
  • Gather and engage partners
  • Guide the assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation steps
  • Assure the community moves the work forward in a coordinated manner
  • Promote accountability
  • Help build conditions for Collective Impact:
    1. Common agenda,
    2. Shared measurement system,
    3. Mutually reinforcing activities,
    4. Continuous communication, and
    5. Backbone support organization


The 2011-2015 Title V MCH Block Grant funding supports early childhood systems work through two initiatives:

Wisconsin Healthiest Families

This initiative focuses on improving systems to address family supports, child development, mental health, and safety and injury prevention.

Keeping Kids Alive

This initiative includes Child Death Review and Fetal Infant Mortality Review.


Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs (CYSHCN): Local public health departments working on the Early Childhood Systems initiatives, Wisconsin Healthiest Families (WHF) and/or Keeping Kids Alive (KKA), should collaborate with the Wisconsin Title V Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Program's Regional Centers for CYSHCN or other partners for help in including CYSHCN.

MCH Early Childhood Systems Core Competencies

Staff Contacts

  • Local Health Department Staff Contacts provides contact information for statewide partners supporting the Wisconsin Healthiest Families and Keeping Kids Alive initiatives.

  • Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin Staff Contacts provides contact information for KKA program staff working with regions. Provide KKA technical assistance that includes: planning meetings, training, template forms, sample reviews, assistance with troubleshooting barriers, data collection and analysis. Visit the Alliance website to learn more about Keeping Kids Alive and the resources available. Contact Abby Collier, Injury Prevention and Death Review Project Manager at 414-292-4016 for additional information.

Additional Resources

Past events with links to recorded sessions, websites and/or materials.

Wisconsin has five Regional Centers for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs that can help families get answers, find services, and connect with community resources. Their services are free and private.

Last Revised: February 2, 2022