Many of you know about the WIC program. It’s officially called “The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.” Since 1974 WIC has provided nutrition and breastfeeding education and support; health screening; referrals to other health, welfare and social agencies; and vouchers to buy healthy foods for low-income pregnant, nutritionally at-risk women.
WIC targets pregnant women (through pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after birth or after pregnancy ends); breastfeeding women (up to an infant’s 1st birthday); and non-breastfeeding postpartum women (up to 6 months after the birth of an infant or after pregnancy ends). It also covers infants (up to the 1st birthday), and children up to their 5th birthday. A staggering 53% of all infants born in the US are served by WIC.
The program casts an extremely wide safety net. It operates in all 50 state health departments, the District of Columbia, five territories, and 34 Indian tribal organizations. Over1,900 local agencies are involved, operating in 10,000 sites including county health departments; mobile clinic vans; hospitals; community centers; schools; public housing sites; Indian Health Service facilities; and migrant health centers and camps.
As you know, I’m passionate about promoting good oral health, along with the integration of medical and dental health services. So, I was excited to read about “Baby Dental Days,” a special program offered through the 5 Clackamas County (Oregon) WIC offices. Once a month each office has a nutrition fair where moms and their families can get more focused nutrition information. Starting late last summer the county expanded their services to include basic oral health screening, fluoride varnish, education and referral for children ages 0 to 5 who do not have a dentist. Children receive the services in a fun and safe room with their parents in attendance. Clackamas County and Neighborhood Health Center dental staff provide the care and WIC staff coordinate the referrals.
This is another example where integration of dental and health services improves care and health outcomes for high-risk populations. Clackamas County WIC should be applauded for their efforts. They have done a fabulous job in developing this program. It would benefit so many more women and families if other WIC centers established similar programs in their local communities. For more information, contact Clackamas County WIC.
InnovaHealth Innovations (IHI) has a special interest in oral health and in the coordination of oral health with primary care. IHI provides consulting services to medical practices to help them be successful in today’s complex healthcare environment. You can reach IHI at: 503.341.0593.