Maternal and Child Health

The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology Section collaborates with the Early Childhood and Family Support Division programs and MCH partners to effectively use data in monitoring and addressing maternal and child health issues in Montana. The section analyzes and interprets data for use in program planning, evaluation, assessment, and policy development.

  • Population Health Needs Assessment and Surveillance: To assess the status, needs, and disparities within the maternal and child health population through data collection, data analytics, and GIS.
  • Measurement and Reporting: To measure and report the impact of health conditions and respond to data requests by agency executives, legislators, federal and local partners, advocates, media, and the public-at-large.
  • Program and Intervention Evaluation: To measure the impact and return on investment of MCH programming and highlight potential improvements for future interventions.
  • Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS): To collect, analyze, and report Montana-based data on maternal behaviors and experiences before, during, and after pregnancy.
  • State Systems Development Initiative (SSDI): To develop, enhance, and expand maternal and child health data capacity in Montana and provide epidemiological support for the Title V MCH Block Grant program.

Ellysse Boughey, BS, is the State of Montana’s MCH Spatial Epidemiologist. She earned her BS in Health Promotion from Texas A&M University - Commerce and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Montana. Ellysse has worked in the public health field since 2018, starting as an AmeriCorps member with the Richland County Health Department in Eastern Montana. She has experience in community health assessments and improvement planning, policy analysis and development, commercial tobacco use prevention, and chronic disease prevention. Her goal is to make maternal and child health data easily digestible through geospatial tools. During her free time, she enjoys recreating outdoors, reading, watching live music, and learning (ungracefully) how to play the banjo.

Melissa Lavinder, BS, is the State of Montana's Early Childhood Program Evaluator. Melissa completed her BS in Pre-Professional Biology with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2013. Since graduation, she has accumulated over 9 years’ experience working at DPHHS to support the well-being of children and families. She has experience in program administration, grant allocation processes, and stakeholder engagement. In her prior roles, Melissa found inventive ways to apply her analytical mindset to program operations. She is passionate about applying early childhood data to serve Montanans equitably. Her exceptional work is evidenced by her receipt of multiple service awards, including the Service to Children and Abby M. Zent Service Recognition awards. Most recently, Melissa served as a member of the CDC/Harvard Evaluation Practicum team for DPHHS, co-developing an evaluation plan for Montana’s ARPA Child Care Innovation investments. Melissa spends most of her free time with her daughter Charli, her partner Kevin, and their two dogs.

Kara Hughes, BS, CPH, is the Montana Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) Coordinator and Epidemiologist Lead. Kara completed her BS in Health and Human Performance-Health Promotion from Montana State University-Billings in 2013. Since then, she has acquired several certificates in public health and is working on her Master’s in Public Health. She has worked in public health for over nine years in the areas of maternal health, teen pregnancy prevention, food access, referral systems, built environment, and chronic disease prevention. She has experience in program management and evaluation, stakeholder engagement, and policy development. She has a passion for maternal and child health and applying her skills and knowledge to put data to action. When she is not at work, you can find her hiking or camping with friends and spending time with her amazing partner, stepson, and three dogs.

Maren Weber, BA, is the Montana Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) Data Manager. Maren completed her BA in History with a minor in Psychology after a broad education through the Montana University System with a short stint at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. She has spent several years working as an adjudicator and hearings officer for Social Security Disability, working primarily with medical records to determine the objective severity of individuals reported disabilities. Prior to that, she worked in Admissions and Registration at Helena College, where she learned the foundations of accurate records management and the importance that data plays in shaping an institutions future. Outside of work, she is married to a wonderful man who owns and operates a busy automotive and fabrication business and mothers an exceptionally active and deceptively charming toddler. They both keep her perpetually busy with off-roading, boating, camping, traveling, tumbling, exploring, and are in constant motion. She and her dog, Nova, can often be found hiding from their antics under the covers of the bed.