Hamilton Health Center Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
WIC Programs have earned the reputation of being one of the most successful federally-funded nutrition programs in the United States. The WIC Program of Hamilton Health Center is a major contributor of healthy outcomes for the nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children of Harrisburg, PA in the following ways:
- Reduction of infant mortality
- Decrease in low and very low birth weights
- Increases in duration of pregnancy
- Improved growth and cognitive development of nutritionally at-risk infants and children
- Improved weight gain in pregnant women
- Pregnant women participating in WIC receive prenatal care earlier
- Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and have more up-to-date immunizations
The WIC Program of Hamilton Health Center has grown significantly throughout its history. Since 2007, the caseload assignment has grown by over 9%. The program is currently serving 6400 participants in Dauphin County and the need for services is growing. Participants are served at three main sites (one is located in the Upper Dauphin area) and five strategically-located satellite sites throughout the county to ensure easy access to benefits for those with transportation issues.
The growth of the program seen in the last decade has been contributed in-part by several outreach campaigns. Some of these campaigns include radio, television, billboards, mass mailing, bus ads and grocery cart ads. The most successful campaign has been the use of bus ads. These ads run consecutively for several month in the city of Harrisburg and some outlying areas, and have contributed greatly to WIC’s visibility in the community and help to improve participation levels every year.
As a result of the program’s growth, significant funding awards have been received. Increases in overall funding starting in FFY 2004 has increased from $750,000.00 to just over $1,200,000.00 in FFY 2013. This program has hired additional FTEs to help with the increased number of participants.
Risk assessment and education are the most important components of the program. All prenatal and postpartum women, infants, and toddlers are assessed at regular intervals by Competent Professional Authorities in the area of nutrition. Risk factors are documented, and individualized care plans are made for each participant. Mothers and care-givers are counseled using a guided goal-setting technique regarding risk factors, using open-ended communication. This guided goal setting technique for each participant has been a very successful way of getting participants to take ownership of and responsibility for behavior changes.
Some of the risk factors pregnant WIC participants are assessed for are adequate weight gain, iron-deficiency anemia, adequate dietary intake, substance abuse and food safety issues. Infants are assessed at every visit for growth, inappropriate feeding practices, adequacy of intake and immunization screening. Infants and toddles who are not up-to-date with immunizations are referred to Hamilton Health Center. 100% of all WIC participants receive risk assessment, education, counseling and follow-up care plans.
Another important goal of the program is breastfeeding promotion and support. Our agency has a high incidence of breastfeeding initiation and is working on improving duration. Collaborations with local hospitals are being formed to assist mothers in breastfeeding successfully. Breastfeeding promotion techniques are provided to every pregnant WIC participant. Four current WIC staff have become Certified Lactation Counselors and an additional five staff will receive training in the coming year. These counselors can provide more in-depth assistance to nursing moms who are struggling. An Internationally Certified Lactation consultant is also on staff. the WIC Program of Hamilton Health Center has also recently made a significant increase to the number of breast pumps that are available to breastfeeding WIC participants.
All WIC participants receive referrals to health and social service organizations. The participants of the Hamilton Health Center WIC Program are fortunate to be able to be referred to all of the programs offered by Hamilton Health Center. If participants do not have a medical home, they are linked to HHC providers, who can provide a large array of services. Participants without insurance are referred to Benefits Coordination. Pregnant and postpartum women and toddlers are given priority by the HHC Dental Department. Additionally, lead screening services are offered free of charge to pregnant women and children. Referrals are documented and followed up on individual care plans.