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MCH Leaders in the Southeast: Tennessee

This month we are featuring Tennessee. One of our featured leaders is Cynthia Chafin, M.Ed., CHES, Project Director and Consultant, MTSU’s Adams Chair of Excellence in Health Care Services/Center for Health and Human Services, and Community Health Collaboratives, LLC. We recently asked her a few questions about her work and why she is involved with Every Woman Southeast.

How long have you been in your current position?

I have been an independent project director working with multiple grants and organizations since 2000, and incorporated in 2007 as Community Health Collaboratives, LLC. The first grant that I ever worked on was organizing, facilitating, and managing the Tennessee Folic Acid Council activities in 2000. The Council has been active in a variety of folic acid initiatives since its inception, and some of its members have now formed a preconception advisory committee for an upcoming grant focusing on broader preconception health programming. I have managed multiple grants through the work that I do with Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) Center for Health and Human Services since 2003, including S.M.A.R.T. Moms, a five-year prenatal smoking cessation grant that reached over 13,000 pregnant smokers and a grant focusing on SIDs education for WIC patients as well as special programming for pregnant and parenting teens in local high schools. I recently received funding for a second- year project to be implemented on the MTSU campus educating college-age women on preconception health and being aware of how the choices they make now might impact them later in life. The project will use the web, text messaging, and other social media tools as modalities for educating young women on these important areas during 2012/2013. The “Did u Know What’s Good 4 u is Good 4 ur Future Baby” project promises to be exciting, innovative, and engaging to our target audience! In addition to implementing these activities on the MTSU campus, we will be developing a tool kit for other academic institutions across the state to replicate the program on their campuses. The response was overwhelmingly positive during the pilot phase of this project with over 1200 young college women participating in learning activities. I am very excited what we will be able to accomplish through this second year with a broadened scope and mission. I want to thank the March of Dimes for funding both the SMART Moms and “Did u Know” programs.

What is your favorite thing/task/part of your work?

I enjoy working on multiple grants and projects. I never get bored and it never seems ‘routine’ or dull. I find both short term and long term grants equally rewarding.

What is your biggest challenge?

Of course funding is a challenge for most of us. With many of the projects I work on, it isn’t certain whether or not we will have the funding to continue the project long enough to accomplish what we would like to accomplish. Each project is designed with sustainability in mind so that the work can continue even if the funding does not. This also provides a broader reach in that others can carry forward the work that has already been done and create a multiplying effect, with bigger benefits. Another big challenge is just not having enough time in the day and in the week to do all that I want to do and hope to accomplish. It’s hard to change the world, but it’s possible to change one small corner of each individual’s world if they find something that they are passionate about and pursue it, with the goal of making a difference through positive change. While I don’t expect to solve all of the world’s public health issues, it’s nice to feel like I can make a difference even though I wish I had more hours in the day and week to do it.

Why are you involved in/interested in Every Woman Southeast?

Every Woman Southeast provides an opportunity for partnerships and relationships with professionals who face the same public health issues that we face here in Tennessee. Historically, Tennessee has not fared well in many areas, and the other states involved in Every Woman Southeast face some of these same issues and really ‘get’ the challenges that we face. We all learn so much from each other and the benefits of collaboration are invaluable. From the webinars to blogs to the opportunities to collaborate together on grant opportunities, Every Woman Southeast provides a great way of communicating with and learning from others who really understand our public health issues and concerns and who are equally passionate about improving the health status of their states.

If you had a million dollars what would you do with it?

I would definitely continue working as a public health professional, as public health is my passion and my calling. I would probably pay off bills and expenses, splurge a bit for my children and husband, and divide some of the remainder between all of the different organizations that fund projects that I work on, since the issues we are trying to tackle are immense and never seem to have enough resources. I’d also fund an animal welfare project!

To find out more about Chafin’s work visit You can also visit To find out more about what is happening in Tennessee, visit

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