Vermont Department of Health - Women, Infants & Children (WIC) and 3 more...less...

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) work in Local Health

Outreach and Retention

(VT OLH) WIC Outreach and Retention

(VT OLH) % of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Target reached by Vermont WIC (target = 90%)

84%HY2 2019

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Story Behind the Curve

WIC caseloads have been on a steady decline in Vermont and across the country. There are many factors contributing to this including: declining birthrates, lower unemployment rates, and a healthy economy. Other factors such as a lack of awareness or understanding of the WIC program, perceived stigma associated with participation, lack of referrals, barriers to applying, transportation limitations, and difficulties with the shopping experience have also contributed to a decline in enrollment. We have seen a trend of a lower percentage of eligible pregnant individuals choosing to enroll in WIC, and for those that do, they are enrolling later in their pregnancies.

In the previous reporting period, Vermont WIC completed a pilot project to offer mid-certification appointments by phone in 3 regions. Data collected included: program participation, kept and missed appointments, participant satisfaction, and staff satisfaction. While we were not able to attribute changes in participation in these regions due to this project, there was a higher kept rate and lower no show rate for 2019 Tele-WIC appointments compared to in-person mid-certification appointments in 2018 and 2019.

  • Department for Children and Families
  • Department of Vermont Health Access
  • Vermont Foodbank
  • Hunger Free Vermont
  • Building Bright Futures
  • Let’s Grow Kids
  • Home Health Agencies
  • Health Care Providers
  • Grocers
  • National WIC Association
What Works

Several strategies have been shown to aid in enrollment, participation, and retention in WIC. The Program participates in a national branding campaign to increase awareness and decrease stigma. Local WIC programs do outreach to eligible families, partner with community organizations to offer certification appointments and nutrition education opportunities. Clinic environments and staff are friendly and welcoming, many offer evening hours, and families receive appointment reminders by text and communicate with offices using two-way texting. Various opportunities are offered for nutrition education, including one-on-one, group settings, and online.

To enhance the WIC Shopping experience, WIC partners with grocers to ensure correct shelf-tagging, system operations, and excellent customer service. Local WIC staff support families with grocery store tours and troubleshooting. The program has a WIC Shopper App, a printed Foods Guide, and shopping videos that can be used in support of WIC shopping. The program reviews products on the Approved Product List regularly to assure offerings meet family needs while complying with federal regulations.

Participant satisfaction is monitored annually through a Participation Survey. Results of the survey are used to plan quality improvement projects at the State and Local levels.

Action Plan

Vermont WIC will continue to implement the strategies outlined in the “What Works” section above. Additionally, the following strategies will have focus in the coming months:

  • Vermont WIC is addressing the decline in prenatal enrollment by developing resources for prenatal provider outreach and partnering with local Health Department staff who will visit with providers to identify improvements in the referral process.
  • The program will roll out offering the “teleWIC” option (mid-certification appointments by phone) Statewide in the coming months and continue to monitor show rates and participation trends.
Why Is This Important?

Vermont WIC’s mission is to assure healthy pregnancies, healthy birth outcomes, and healthy growth and development for women, infants and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk, by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, breastfeeding information and support, education on healthy eating, and referrals to health care and critical social services.

WIC supports sound nutrition during critical periods of cognitive development to mitigate the harmful effects of poverty. In fact, research shows that children whose mothers participated in WIC while pregnant scored higher on assessments of mental development at age 2 than similar children whose mothers didn’t participate.

There are also direct and indirect economic benefits associated with WIC participation. Medicaid saves up to $4.20 for every $1 spent on pregnant women who participate in WIC because pregnancies are longer, leading to fewer premature and underweight births. WIC also supplements monthly food expenses by ensuring that families have access to nutritious food, which reduces food insecurity and the risk of chronic conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

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