April 22, 2010

In-hospital WIC service aids new mothers

In-hospital WIC service aids new mothers

Since January, new mothers have been able to enroll in Women, Infants and Children (WIC) before leaving the hospital, thanks to a joint venture between Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Metro Nashville Public Health Department.

WIC, also called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program, is a federal program that provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and to infants and children until the age of 5.

“The positive impact [of WIC] is the program’s effectiveness in lowering rates of anemia, prematurity and low birth weight infants,” said Chris Biesemeier, director of Clinical Nutrition at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Participants must meet the established income guidelines and be at nutritional or medical risk. Also, for in-hospital services, women and infants must be residents of Davidson County.

Eligible participants receive supplemental food vouchers and food packages comprised of grains, fruits and vegetables, dairy and protein. Nutrients such as calcium, iron and vitamins A and C are frequently lacking in the diets of low-income populations. Different food packages are provided for different categories of participants.

“The packages are set up so that if you are breastfeeding you get more food. We want to promote that breastfeeding is best,” Biesemeier said.
Davidson County WIC also provides breastfeeding support, including counseling and education materials.

“For us, having in-hospital WIC services is a win-win,” Biesemeier said. “Our WIC-eligible moms are very happy to receive their WIC vouchers before they go home.”

The primary locations where WIC services are offered are 4 East Obstetrics, Newborn Nursery and the NICU. After nurses identify patients who are interested in the program, WIC staff members provide services to eligible patients.

“During January and February, 262 participants left the hospital with their WIC vouchers already in hand,” said Kelly Whipker, WIC registered dietitian and certified lactation consultant.

WIC is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and services are provided through the Tennessee Department of Health. WIC services are in about 140 county health department locations and hospital sites throughout the state. The program serves about 178,000 participants each month in Tennessee.