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MCH Leadership Competencies

Competency 4: Critical Thinking


Complex challenges faced by MCH populations and the systems that serve them necessitate critical thinking. Critical thinking is the ability to identify an issue or problem, frame it as a specific question, consider it from multiple perspectives, evaluate relevant information, and develop a reasoned resolution.

Evidence-based decision-making is the conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence to guide practice, policy, and research. It is an advanced manifestation of critical thinking skills.

Implementation science is also a vital component of critical thinking in order to promote the adoption and integration of evidence-based practices, interventions, and policies.1


MCH leaders will demonstrate a working knowledge of:

  • The cognitive hierarchy of critical thinking: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
  • Basic statistics, epidemiology, qualitative and quantitative research, systematic review, and meta-analyses.
  • The levels of evidence used in guidelines and recommendations of their professional organizations.


Foundational. At a foundational level, MCH leaders will:

  1. Evaluate various perspectives, sources of information, merits of various approaches, and possible unintended consequences in addressing a clinical, organizational, community-based, or research challenge.
  2. Use population data to assist in determining the needs of a population for the purposes of designing programs, formulating policy, and conducting research or training.
  3. Formulate a focused and important practice, research, or policy question.
  4. Demonstrate the ability to critically analyze research.
  5. Advanced. Building on the foundational skills, MCH leaders will:
  6. Identify promising and evidence-informed practices and policies that can be used in situations where action is needed, but no evidence base yet exists.
  7. Present and discuss a rationale for policies and programs that is grounded in research and addresses the information needs of different audiences.
  8. Use implementation science to analyze and translate research findings into policies and programs.
  9. Develop and apply evidence-based practice guidelines and policies in their field.

FOOTNOTE: (1) Adapted from NIH Fogarty International Center Implementation Science Information and Resources. Available at www.fic.nih.gov/researchtopics/pages/implementationscience.aspx

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