Healthie is proud to partner with the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program’s clinic sites. WIC is utilizing Healthie’s telehealth and technology platform to enable their social mission, “safeguarding the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk, by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.”
In 2017, we joined forces with WIC-Community Medical Centers (CMC) in California as part of a Telehealth (“TeleWIC”) research study to understand the impact of virtual care programs via a “WIC Video Visits” program. One year later, the program is well underway, already improving access to nutritional care within communities in need, and helping WIC dietitians, lactation consultants, nurses, and coaches build relationships with their clients.
WIC Program Manager, Andrea Weiss, RD, CLE presented findings to date at the May California WIC conference. We wanted to jointly share this update with the Healthie community, and other WIC programs interested in providing remote care to communities in need, because we truly believe and have seen first-hand the impact that telehealth, telenutrition, and “TeleWIC” can have in WIC communities.
The USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) contributes to the health and wellness of more than 8 million women and children every year. Unfortunately, many WIC centers around the country are reporting a decline in participation in their programs. “There has been much focus on this issue at both the national and state level [across WIC clinic sites]. However, the consensus is mixed about what exactly is causing this decline in WIC participation. In 2011, an estimated 1.85 million women, infants, and children were eligible for WIC benefits in California in an average month, but were not receiving WIC. We need new ways to reach WIC families.” – Andrea Weiss, RD, CLE
At Community Medical Centers, innovation to bolster child retention and improve long-term relationships with mothers has become centered around technology, and its ability to improve engagement, track outcomes, and help this WIC center “stay ahead of the curve.”
Public Health and Technology
Contrary to some common assumptions, research shows that current WIC participants – across all income levels and ethnicities – are just as “wired” as the rest of their generation. Therefore, as this new generation becomes parents, incorporating technology in care is more important than ever for WIC programs across the country.” – Andrea Weiss, RD CLE.
A 2011 USDA Special Project Research, looked at how WIC households in the Western Region States (including California) used social media and the internet; studies found that:
- Nearly all participants owned cell phones with texting capabilities.
- The 3 most utilized technologies were email, Facebook, and text messaging.
- Not surprisingly, younger participants were more likely to use their phones to connect, while older ones still used computers.
- More educated WIC moms were more likely to use the Internet to schedule or change WIC appointments or to log on to online nutrition education or videos.
- The same research showed very clearly that WIC participants are eager to interact with WIC online rather than having to use the telephone or schedule in-person appointments at clinic sites.
Further focus groups revealed that these participants want to receive more nutrition education through online classes and perceive WIC counseling through video chat just as useful as in-person counseling sessions.
As a convenient way to communicate, technology actually affords WIC families the opportunities to receive stellar WIC services to improve the health of the next generation.
Incorporating Healthie Into the TeleWIC Program
As the Community Medical Center’s Program in California has started to prove, there is inherently a heavy reliance on technology, particularly amongst the millennial generation. As a result, WIC programs only stand to benefit by embracing such technologies. By partnering with Healthie to provide WIC nutrition education and breastfeeding support resources via telehealth, or video conferencing, WIC in the State of California has been able to “take charge with expanding technology, while still being able to maintain WIC program integrity.”
Thirty-five WIC families enrolled in the “WIC Video Visits” in the first two months of launch alone, with more families joining the program daily. The goal of the WIC Video Visits program is to boost WIC program enrollment, prove WIC’s relevance in the next generation, and foster a new sense of community, online. Already, Andrea reports that including Healthie’s technology in care has improved convenience, flexibility, efficiency, and marketability too.
What’s Up Next
The next phase of WIC Video Visits, or “TeleWIC” is all about growth and expansion. We look forward to continuing to bring telenutrition to WIC centers as a core part of programming.
As Andrea says, “The time has come for WIC to take a bold, proactive step forward and integrate these modern technologies. Now is the time to learn about, test and implement forms of telehealth, including videoconferencing, in WIC agencies.”
If you are interested in speaking with Andrea Weiss RD, CLE or the Healthie team to learn more, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.