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A Healthy Start - Nutrition Benefits and Education for Moms and Children

Women, Infants and Children - WIC - is a government sponsored program in the USA which provides supplemental nutrition, nutrition education and a referral network for health and social services to women and children living in low income communities and those at high risk due to illness. WIC gives children a healthy start!

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The WIC program in the US provides supplemental nutrition and services to more than 8 million low income women, infants and children per month.  Half of this number are children.  50% of all infants in the USA receive WIC benefits, 25% of pregnant women, post partum women and children particpate and receive benefits.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides low-income pregnant women, postpartum mothers, infants, and children up to age 5 with select foods, nutrition education, and health care and government service referrals. WIC helps ensure that those most at risk of not receiving adequate nutrition get assistance at a critical time in their development. Early intervention aims to improve the health of participants and prevent later health problems.

WIC Celebrates It's 40th Year

WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program

WIC supplements change over time as research on healthy food choices is available.  In September 2014 WIC changed it's policy on milk.  Now WIC participants are only able to choose 1% low fat or skim milk using their wic checks.  This is in an effort to combat the growing trend of childhood obesity in the USA.  

Nutritional Counseling at WIC clinics - See attached lesson plan on healthy milk choices - PDF file.
Reaching the Underserved and Improving WIC Services - Executive Summary, 2001 - California WIC
This study used focus groups to:
Assess the following in women who had never participated in WIC but were eligible.
1) Assess awareness, knowledge and perception of the WIC program.
2) Perceived enrollment barriers.
3) Willingness to participate in WIC
4) Outreach methods that respondents thought would best reach women like themselves.

Assess the following in then current WIC participants.
1) How did you learn about WIC?
2) What satisfies you about the program/ dissatisfies you?
3) Suggestions for the program.
4) Suggestions for developing creative and effective outreach efforts

Participant Groups:
Native American
African American
Pacific Islander

There were differences in the responses between these different ethnic groups.  These differences exemplify the importance of considering cultural context for any intervention.  Although this is an old study it is interesting to note and learn from this observation.  (See pages 2-9 of the study at the link above.) 

Examples From The Study - 
Then eligible but not enrolled.

Hispanic Respondents
As a group, Hispanic respondents were much more likely to have heard about WIC by word-of-mouth and from healthcare providers. Hispanic respondents also were more likely to be interested in the services provided by the program and to express opinions about media presentations that would attract them. On the other hand, they were most likely to reject participation in WIC. The major reasons were that their husbands forbid them to participate because of pride, and that they and their husbands feared investigation by the federal government.
The best way to target these respondents is through the Hispanic media, churches, and public schools.

Vietnamese Respondents
These respondents were the least likely to have heard about the WIC Program and, upon learning about benefits were the most likely to say they would enroll.
The best way to reach these respondents is to send Vietnamese-speaking community workers into the neighborhoods to talk to small groups of women.    Media should be presented on Vietnamese and Chinese print and radio and TV stations.

Then Currently Enrolled Participants
Hispanic Participants
These participants were the most likely to talk about the importance of the services they received. Particularly, they mentioned guidance through their pregnancies and child rearing. They were the most likely to express a need for referrals for teen pregnancies and domestic violence.

Vietnamese Participants
As a group, these participants are extremely thankful for benefits and the services they receive. They would like to see the WIC food package contain a wider variety of cereals and foods that meet their cultural tastes. Many admit that they give away milk and cheese and some cereals because their children do not like the taste of these products. Some in this group would like transportation services.

What ideas can we think of to increase food security for families, support nutritional requirements for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children, that also include education and a connection to health services?  
Using WIC as a model concept, what model can we design for local communities in the developing world? 


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