Systems Thinking for Maternal and Child Health: Applications in Practice

Course Description:

Systems thinking and using the systems approach to manage public health controversies can provide new and exciting opportunities and collaborations, yet the importance of this concept is often overlooked. Many disciplines converge in this problem-solving approach and bring new ideas to the forefront of today’s critical public health issues. In this seminar, Dr. Donna Petersen will explore how systems thinking can be applied to Maternal and Child Health and analyze the advantages of using this method to solve current and future challenges in public health.

Note: This course was originally delivered as a satellite broadcast.

Target Audience

Academic Faculty/Staff, Federal Government Employees, State Government Employees, Local Government Employees, Non-Government Employees and Students

Learning Objectives

  • Define “systems thinking” in a Maternal and Child Health context
  • Discuss current Maternal and Child Health/public health opportunities and challenges that call for a systems approach (give concrete examples)
  • Describe the application of systems thinking in Maternal and Child Health practice
  • Compare and contrast the benefits using a systems approach and potential negative consequences of not using a systems approach
Course summary
Available credit: 
  • 2.00 Participation/CE
    Tulane Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) awards 2.00 hour(s) of credit for completing Systems Thinking for Maternal and Child Health: Applications in Practice
Course opens: 
Course expires: 


Donna Petersen

Donna Petersen, MHS, ScD
Senior Associate Vice President

USF Health


College of Public Health

University of South Florida

Dr. Donna Petersen is Dean of the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida. Prior to joining USF, she was Professor in the Departments of Maternal and Child Health, and Health Care Organization and Policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, School of Public Health. From 1996 - 2003, Dr. Petersen was the senior associate dean for academic affairs at the UAB School of Public Health. From 1990-1995, Dr. Petersen served as Director of the Division of Family Health at the Minnesota Department of Health.

Dr. Petersen earned her masters and doctoral degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She has also held positions with the federal government and the state of Maryland and has served on numerous community agency boards and gubernatorial commissions and task forces. While in Minnesota, she served as adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. She is a frequent lecturer on topics related to maternal and child health, health care reform, and systems change and leadership, and has provided extensive technical assistance and training to state health departments in the areas of needs assessment, data system development, and public health roles within evolving health care systems. She has devoted particular attention to public health responsibilities in monitoring health status, access, utilization, and quality of health care and in the areas of systems level accountability and the development of population-based indicators. She is the author of numerous publications, book chapters and a textbook on needs assessment in public health.

She has been honored for her work by the American Public Health Association, the Association of Teachers of Maternal and Child Health, the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and the Delta Omega National Public Health Honor Society. She was the 1996 recipient of the UAB President's Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2003 recipient of the UAB School of Public Health Outstanding Public Health Service Award. In 2002, the UAB School of Public Health created the Donna J. Petersen Award given annually to an outstanding student in the integrated core curriculum, in honor of her leadership in developing a unique, award-winning approach to public health education for future professionals.

At the USF College of Public Health, Dean Petersen is leading a dynamic group of scholars and educators, working to improve the health of the people of Florida and the world, through innovative programs of learning, discovery and community engagement, and the expansion of global health initiatives.

Available Credit

  • 2.00 Participation/CE
    Tulane Professional and Continuing Education (PaCE) awards 2.00 hour(s) of credit for completing Systems Thinking for Maternal and Child Health: Applications in Practice


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Required Hardware/software

System Settings 
This course is designed to work most effectively if your computer and internet connection meet certain minimal requirements. This course can be accessed using a Windows 10 PC or a Mac with High Sierra1, Mojave, or Catalina. Pop-up blockers should be disabled when viewing the course. Internet Explorer 11 (for Windows 10), or the current version of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Apple Safari (for Windows 10 and or Mac) is required. Many of our courses require Java and JavaScript enabled. 

Links to External Websites   
Links to websites outside this course will open in a new window or tab. Some browsers may minimize the course window. If this occurs, maximize the course window to return to the course. 

Adobe Acrobat Reader (for desktops and laptops)  
Adobe Acrobat Reader is required to access some documents in this course. If you need to download a free copy of Acrobat Reader, click here.  

Internet Connection Speed 
A minimum download speed of 1.5 Mbps is recommended for an optimal experience, which is commonly the speed associated with a basic DSL or a cellular/satellite connection. A faster connection, such as cable or fiber service, with further enhance your online experience. A Wi-Fi connection is generally acceptable, but it is dependent upon one of the two services mentioned above. You can check your internet connection speed at