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Utilizing Systems Tools to Adapt and Strengthen Changing Systems During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Jessica Cohen, National MCH Workforce Development Center/AMCHP

Thrust into challenging times by the COVID-19 pandemic, the MCH workforce must adapt as the systems we live and work in are changing day to day. Systems mapping can help individuals and teams in state health departments successfully recognize, understand, and adapt to these changes.

In this trying time, systems tools offer a structured way to clearly think about the system one operates in, its limits, and opportunities for improvement. In this article, we discuss how the following tools might be applied to improve outcomes and strengthen systems during COVID-19.

The 5 R’s

The 5 R’s pose questions around the Results, Roles, Resources, Relationships, and Rules that structure a system. In order to move the needle on MCH outcomes and objectives, it is useful to assess the interconnected relationships between the various aspects of the system, including stakeholders, resources, and policies.

This tool provides an opportunity to gather diverse perspectives through a systematic discussion with stakeholders on what defines success, who is needed to move the work forward, what resources are required to achieve success, what relationships are critical to ensure positive results, and which rules confine the system. Identifying what the rules are is the first step; determining if and how the rules need to be adapted to become more flexible during the current pandemic is next.




5Rs Guiding Questions

Learn More About the 5 R’s

System Support Maps (SSMs)

SSMs are a useful tool to visualize and share what is needed to feel supported in carrying out important responsibilities. System support mapping asks participants to individually identify their role, key responsibilities, the needs and resources required to complete these responsibilities, and wishes for what these would look like in an ideal world.

SSMs allow participants to see their role in the broader system and what is takes to succeed in these roles – an especially important exercise in the changing landscape of COVID-19. Sharing SSMs with colleagues is a way to clearly articulate what is needed, to hear what others need, and to identify gaps in the support system. SSMs can help understand and articulate the changing responsibilities and needs associated with the COVID-19 response.

Through this structured process, groups can look across maps and brainstorm how to repurpose and align resources to strengthen support to colleagues during this pandemic. The Systems Integration Core encourages flexibility during this time and can help with creating virtual SSMs to strengthen and align systems.




System Support Maps

Learn More About System Support Maps

For the mapping tool mentioned in the video visit: