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    Ob/gyn involvement in WIC efforts breeds success

    A collaborative approach means community-based services can reach underserved populations who need additional support.

    It may surprise some ob/gyns to know that their local Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, more commonly known as WIC, is anxious to partner with them to improve the health and well-being of the families they serve.  Funded by the US Department of Agriculture and administered by state agencies WIC is the country’s largest public health nutrition program. In 2016, WIC served nearly 7.7 million participants each month, including 53% of babies born in the United States. In many communities, WIC and women’s health care providers work hand-in-hand to create positive outcomes for women and children (Figure 1).

    WIC serves pregnant and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5 who are at or below 185% of the poverty line and at nutrition risk. Enrollment in Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) also qualify. The program provides participants with nutrition education, breastfeeding support, a healthy food package, and referrals to health and social services. 

    Pregnant women who participate in WIC are more likely to carry their pregnancies to term and give birth to healthy weight babies.1 WIC staff screen for perinatal care issues including anemia, smoking, substance use, hypertension and other health risks. Pregnant women who participate in WIC are more likely to have prenatal healthcare.1

    In the last 3 years, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has partnered with the National WIC Association (NWA) on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Community Partnerships for Healthy Mothers and Children (CPHMC).2 Women’s health providers are collaborating with their local WIC offices to implement community-driven programs assisting underserved populations.

    Within this project, 30 local WIC agencies across the country have created community-based interventions to increase access to healthy foods and reduce chronic disease. These efforts include: starting farmer’s markets and community gardens, creating non-pharmaceutical diet and exercise “prescription” pads for distribution by providers, changing menus in local restaurants to include healthy options, and encouraging corner stores to include fruit and vegetables (Figures 2 and 3).

    The coalitions’ women’s health clinicians provide insight and guidance for developing interventions. Physician members also serve as advisors on the leadership teams for the project and, in many communities, have recruited other providers and professionals to become active in local WIC agencies. Many of the interventions implemented by the WIC agencies include building and strengthening provider/community relationships, importantly the relationship between women’s health providers and WIC. To effectively develop a culture of health within communities, participating ob/gyns are given a better understanding of the broad scope of resources that WIC provides to pass on to their patients.  Many communities have implemented “WIC 101” trainings to further inform ob/gyns, nurses, and other medical staff about WIC. Such trainings may also discuss how WIC and the women’s healthcare providers can collaborate to ensure that women are connected to the proper healthcare resources. To increase provider engagement in these efforts, ACOG has successfully included this community-based project in the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Level IV Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Process. These efforts have produced new champions for WIC in the medical community, which has greatly increased the promotion of WIC throughout clinical settings. 

    REFERENCES

    1. United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service. WIC Program. https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/wic-program. Published June 9, 2017. Accessed June 26, 2017.

    2. National WIC Association. WIC Program Overview and History. https://www.nwica.org/overview-and-history. Accessed June 26, 2017.

    Sharon T. Phelan, MD
    Dr. Phelan is a Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
    Anna-Maria Roaché, MPH
    Anna-Maria Roché, MPH is the Program Specialist in the NWICA Consortium Program at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
    Anna-Maria Roaché
    Anna-Maria Roaché, MPH is the Program Specialist in the NWICA Consortium Program at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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