CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health, Office of Nutrition Services was recently awarded a Special Project Innovation Grant by the Council of State Governments (CSG). Through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), CSG announced grant awards to Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) agencies for customer service enhancements to the certification and eligibility determination process.
The West Virginia WIC Program, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Women, Infants and Children, will provide local WIC agencies access to their state’s Health Information Exchange (HIE), implement a document exchange portal as well as establish WIC medical liaisons to conduct outreach to medical providers. The WIC medical liaison will establish and maintain relationships with health care providers to educate about the WIC Program, promote the HIE, and outline benefits to patients for participation in the HIE with referrals to WIC as a third component of the grant.
“This grant project will focus on increasing the efficiency of the certification process and increasing applicant and provider awareness of WIC. It also aims to increase satisfaction with the certification and referral process,” said West Virginia WIC Director, Heidi Staats. “Major barriers to an efficient certification appointment are appointment logistics and long wait times for initial certification appointments but two components of the grant project will reduce the time for certification by local WIC clinics.”
A goal of the project is to strengthen WIC’s role as an adjunct to healthcare and reduce the length of appointments. By accessing height, weight, and anthropometric health data through the HIE, and receiving residency and income documentation via a secure portal, an applicant’s eligibility assessment can be initiated prior to their arrival in the WIC clinic.
“Continuing to implement technology into WIC service provision ensures remaining on pace with changes in healthcare and building WIC services as a relevant, important support to the medical home,” Staats added. “Millennial and Generation Z parents have a reliance, preference and expectation for technology.”
West Virginia provides WIC services at 57 WIC clinic locations spanning the entire state. According to the USDA FNS, approximately 49% of the state’s eligible target population received WIC services in 2017 (https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic-2017-eligibility-and-coverage-rates#6).
During the COVID-19 public health emergency, West Virginia WIC continues to offer certification, benefit issuance, and nutrition and breastfeeding education virtually. For more information about the WIC Program, visit https://dhhr.wv.gov/wic/Pages/default.aspx.