Friday, May 19, 2023
Too many women and children in the Cincinnati region who qualify for federal nutrition benefits are missing out on receiving them--in many cases because of the application process and language barriers. Now a team led by Cincinnati Children’s pediatrician Chidiogo Anyigbo, MD, MPH, and University of Cincinnati pediatric psychologist Cathleen Stough, PhD, has funding to do something about that.
The researchers have been awarded an 18-month, $326,712 federal grant to introduce a new online referral system to apply for the WIC benefit. The system will allow families to use QR codes to start the WIC application process. The application will be available in English and several non-English preferred languages.
The local agencies involved include Cincinnati Children’s, the University of Cincinnati Healthy Bearcat Families Lab, and the Hamilton County WIC program. The funding comes from the WIC Community Innovation and Outreach Project (WIC CIAO), which is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service.
The Cincinnati project is one of 36 awards announced on May 18, 2023, in Washington, D.C., to support efforts to reduce disparities in program delivery through developing innovative outreach strategies to increase awareness, participation, and benefit redemption in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The WIC program provides healthy food, nutrition education, breastfeeding counseling and referrals for pregnant individuals, infants up to 12 months, and children up to age 5.
“Unfortunately, in Ohio more than 50% of people who are eligible for WIC do not participate in the program,” Anyigbo says. “Our plan is to identify areas within our community where WIC participation is lower than expected and provide ways to make it easier for people to apply.”
Reaching more families with WIC can have positive impacts on the community. WIC has been shown to support longer, safer pregnancies, breastfeeding support, with improved maternal health and fewer premature births and infant deaths. Improved dietary outcomes also help children be better prepared for school.
In addition to reducing language barriers, the project will expand partnerships between primary care offices and local WIC offices in areas with low WIC enrollment. The team will be partnering with WIC families, WIC agency staff, and health care providers to inform project development.
The Cincinnati grant runs through October 2024.
WIC CIAO is administered through a USDA cooperative agreement with the Food Research & Action Center, in partnership with the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition, the Native American Agriculture Fund, and UnidosUS.