The WIC on Wheels program of the West Central Health District has been honored by the American Public Health Association.
Accepting the Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work in Atlanta was the district director Dr. Beverley Townsend.
A news release explained that the prize is awarded to a health officer of a county, city or other unit of local government, in recognition for outstanding creative and innovative public health work.
“Our district provides public health services for clients in 16 counties in rural Southwest Georgia. I’m always encouraging my staff to think outside the box to find ways to improve public health outcomes, and this is one example of how we’ve succeeded,” Townsend said in the release.
Townsend is responsible for more than 25 Public Health programs, one of which is Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
WIC, is a federal program designed to assist pregnant women, nursing women, and children up to the age of five. The program provides nutrition education, as well as vouchers for clients to receive food items to help ensure the health and development of children, as well as expectant and breastfeeding mothers.
According to the release, during the last few years, the caseload has declined significantly in West Central Health District by approximately five percent.
A survey revealed a major contributing factor for clients was and is the lack of transportation to the local WIC office. In 15 of the 16 counties in the district, there is no public transportation and many clients do not have reliable vehicles, thus leaving them with the difficult task of trying to find a ride, either from family members or friends.
Other clients in rural areas also work extended hours at factories, farms, or food processing plants, limiting their ability to come to their local health departments during business hours.
In March 2015, WIC on Wheels was developed to provide services to those who had issues that prevented them from receiving assistance at a WIC office. The program was launched with limited resources by using an existing Emergency Preparedness trailer that was converted to office space.
Because of the overwhelming success of the WIC Mobile Clinic, a new custom designed WIC on Wheels trailer was obtained using funds through a Special Operations Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“I have always wanted to find a way to serve clients who have barriers that keep them from coming to the local WIC office for services”, says Brenda Forman, WIC Supervisor, at the Columbus Health Department. “WIC on Wheels has enabled us to help more than 2,100 women, infants and children throughout the West Central Health District.”
Currently, WIC on Wheels serves more than 300 active clients throughout the local community and at more than 20 Head Start Centers. This program also provides women with referrals to other services such as prenatal care, infant growth and development resources, and support for breastfeeding mothers.
For more information on the WIC program, call 800-789-5502, or visit https://westcentralhealthdistrict.com/programs-services/women-infants-and-children-wic.