The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) delivers Federal donations to States for health care referrals, supplemental foods, and nutrition education for low-income breastfeeding, pregnant and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to babies and kids up to age five who are found to be at nutritional threat (Philip, 2017). For one to be eligible for this program, the applicant must meet eligibility requirements in four areas: categorical, income, residential and nutrition risk.
Categorical requirements requires the participants to fall either under the infants category (up to their first birthday), children (who are under five years of age), pregnant women (during pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth), breastfeeding (while breastfeeding the infant up to their first birthday) and postpartum ( six months after giving birth).
The gross income of the applicant (i.e. before taxes are withheld) must fall at or be below 185 percent of the U.S poverty income guidelines. States income requirements vary between 100 % and 185 %. Most state the maximum instruction, which is approximately $45k annually for a family of four.
The applicant must be a resident of the state to which they are applying.
The applicant must have a nutritional risk assessment done by a qualified health professional. The evaluation is based on height, weight and growth assessment, general health history among many others.
WIC program has been so effective over the years, some of its main accomplishments include; the reductions of weak and deficient birth-weight babies, cuts of premature births, improved diet quality among the target group, pregnant women have increased access to prenatal care earlier, and there are a reduced fetal and infants deaths. There is also a significantly increased access to regular health care, the rate of immunization has gone up, reduced reports of low-iron anemia and pregnant women have increased their consumption of vital nutrients such as proteins, calcium, iron and vitamin C and A.
WIC has grown from a tiny program serving eighty-eight thousand participants in 1974, eight million people including nearly half of Americas infants and a quarter of the children age one to five as of 2016 with over 10000 clinics across the country.
WIC was designed to address that extreme hunger and nutritional deficiencies that were observed in the U.S in the mid to late 1960s (Mulloy, 2014). The 1960s was a time of great ferment and unrest in America, where many believed that societal wrongs could be righted and problems resolved thus civil rights and anti-poverty groups brought into light the issues about poverty that America had long been ignoring. Many U.S citizens including children went to bed without food, which enabled hunger to come into the national spotlight in the spring of 1967 when Marian Wright, a young attorney for the national association for the advancement of colored people, led Senate poverty subcommittee members, Robert F Kennedy and Joe Clark on a tour of the Mississippi Delta. This visit uncovered unthinkable poverty and malnutrition, which led to more investigations and reports being conducted (Mulloy, 2014).
In May 1968, the explosive CBS documentary Hunger in America came hosted by Charles Kuralt. This documentary revealed that hunger victims were often children. However, doctors working in public hospital were aware of the epidemic. They had seen the effects of malnutrition first hand, for instance in inner-city Baltimore clinics where they served a very high level of iron deficiency anemia, undergrowth in many of the infants (i.e. poor weight and length indices)
Thus, the idea of remedying poor nutrition to cab iron deficiency illness by improving the nutrition in children rose, Dr. Paige was behind this experimental program in 1969, where he approached the Maryland Food Committee seeking a modest grant to test his idea. This experiment was to become one of the models for WIC. The program rose but with several difficulties such lack of federal support. In 1974 WIC was piloted has a supplemental food program that aimed to improve the health of pregnant women infants, and children in response to concern over the huge level of malnutrition in poverty stricken areas (Philip, 2017).
It implementation lagged due to its enormous budget and complicated format, the first ranch was opened in Kentucky in January of 1974. In the same year, the program had spread in 45 states. It budget skyrocketed, and by 1975 it was established as a permanent Program by legislation P.L. 94-105. Eligibility was also extended to non-breastfeeding mothers (up to 6 months postpartum) and children up to age 5. By 1978, the legislation introduced new elements into the program such as nutrition education. The supplemental food provided should include the nutrients found missing in the target population, and they should have relatively low levels of fat, sugar, and salt and states needed to coordinate referrals to social services such as drug abuse and alcohol prevention, child abuse counseling, immunization and family planning.
Due to several campaigns from breast feeding advocate, WIC introduced enhanced food package for exclusively breastfeeding mother to promote breastfeeding in 1992. In 1997, USDA implemented a campaign to increase the breastfeeding rate in WIC mothers and improve public support for breastfeeding. The Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Initiative was founded in 2004, where women with breastfeeding experience (often past WIC mothers) were used as counselors to help support other women learning to breast feed.
WIC offers assistance to its eligible participants in the following areas (Cochran, 2014):
Supplemental food food checks or EBT cards are issued to the participants to the stores that have contracted with the state to accept these checks in exchange of the foods.
Formula these are infant formula
Nutrition education the participants are offered free nutrition and health education that help them understand their precise food needs and gain knowledge about health prevention and improvement strategies.
Healthcare access and other social services these services are such as prenatal programs, drug and alcohol treatments, and immunization and child clinics.
Breastfeeding support support and guidance materials from certified lactation educators advise participants and the importance of breastfeeding and the proper techniques.
The special supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children has benefited hugely from program evaluation, and high qualitative and quantitative research focused on the program impact. Therefore, it is important for the program to continually update itself, expand and reinforce the rigorous documentation of WIC's positive effects on women, Infants and children. Thus WIC studies are broad ranging in theme and scale; they have covered issues on the impact of WIC on obesity and cognitive development. They have covered issues to how WIC food package meets cultural needs of WIC population across the country. Each of the study areas serves to bolster WIC four pillars, nutrition education, referrals to social services and health care, breastfeeding support and healthy food package.
WIC is the only USDA food assistance program with legislative and regulatory requirements to offer nutrition education. USDA is required to review the food package every ten years to be aligned with the most current nutrition science and latest dietary recommendations for Americans. It is because it is important to continuously assess the food and nutrients intake of low-income mothers, infants, and children to evaluate the most beneficial nutrients to these population groups. A myriad of question-related to maternal and young kids is very important to this program, and well-designed even small scale can hugely impact both current and future WIC food packages.
WIC program faces numerous barriers, thus the need to be assessed on the areas on how to make the delivery of nutritious foods and nutrition education better for its participants and identify different ways in which to maximize the number of eligible participants to receive nutrition benefits within the community. There are several barriers keeping eligible participants from applying, renewal of current food package and the effectiveness of providing nutrition education.
Ethnicity and race do not factor in eligibility since statistics reveal that participants come from almost all groups mainly Native American, Alaskan Native, Asian, African American and Caucasian. Their education level varies from fifth grade to bachelor degree holders although most are high school graduates. Less than 1% are non-English speakers thus the need for a translator. Income and poverty level criteria are set primarily depending on the number of households, most of the WIC applicants and current clients have less than five households. Applicants will automatically qualify if they are receiving SNAP benefits, temporary assistance for needy or medical insurance (Quest).
WIC annual reports indicate that a huge number of applicants were born to women between ages 15-40 years old, which is in line with the national statistics. The study shows that age and education levels of mothers are all risk factors to still births, abortion and infants mortality. WIC has managed to achieve all-cause death rates for population participating in the program.
A 2012 study in this area showed a significant decrease in obesity rates among all women participants as compared to previous years however a there was a 9.6% increase in childhood overweight/obesity rate among the WIC participants. Also, there were a high number of breastfeeding participants showing that WIC had strived to achieve all its efforts on promoting and providing breastfeeding support to its members, however, most mothers reported a lack of prenatal care in their first WIC appointments. Tobacco use rates were significantly small, less than 1% would smoke while the infants and children were in the house. The iron-related low hemoglobin level among women and children was no significant 10% compared to 15% statewide.
Fortunately, most of the WIC participants are enrolled in other feeding programs, SNAP the largest program offering financial support to low-income households also links with WIC program to qualify eligible applicants and ensures that all pregnant SNAP participants receive WIC benefits.
Apart from financial support, numerous health care agencies/facilities within the community offer health screening to ensure that WIC participants receive optimal health assistance. Hospital stuff is cognitive of WIC program and can send patients to WIC program without advanced referrals. KMC is one of the primary affiliates of WIC program. WIC dietitians are required to attend hospital rounds once a week to gain an update on number and status of current newborns in NICU and their estimated discharged dates (Welch, 1988).
Other needs assessment areas include community resources, i.e. how convenient it is for a WIC participant to attend their clinics. Background information of the members regarding overweight/obesity, for instance, due to increase in the obesity rate among children aged 2 to 5 WIC provided a national directive to promote the reduction of fat intake from drinking 2% milk, only low fat(1%) and nonfat milk to be issued.
Research in the listed areas greatly helps WIC identify a niche and addressed them while it still early. The program was...
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