Los Angeles, California: Current Los Angeles County data indicate there are approximately 5000 African American (AA) families eligible for but not receiving WIC services. In observance of Black History Month, the PHFE WIC Program is seeking opportunities to collaborate with other community groups to improve the health of AA mothers and babies. PHFE WIC is fostering partnerships with local legislators and key resources such as CalFresh, medical providers, community-based organizations and schools. The goal is to connect with AA families and raise their awareness of WIC services that include nutrition and health information, breastfeeding support, supplemental foods, and referrals to important family resources. Given the complexity of issues that may keep some AA families from accessing WIC services, it is imperative to enlist the help of grassroots organizations, churches and other community members in this call-to-action to help connect AA families with WIC.
“Having a baby is a wonderful life-changing event that presents a lot of challenges. WIC has so many resources to deal with these challenges. One thing that I take away from my life-changing encounter with WIC is that there is always a brighter tomorrow and I want families to know that WIC offers more than just food checks”. These words from Ericka, an African American WIC participant, illustrate the value of WIC for young families and the importance of providing WIC services to all eligible families.
In a recent article, the American Academy of Pediatrics identified the period from pregnancy through the first two years of childhood as a time for tremendous neurodevelopment and vulnerability. Healthy development is dependent on socioeconomic, interpersonal, family and nutritional factors. This compelling research gives WIC greater cause to focus on reaching underserved families including those in the AA community. Statistically, AA mothers have the highest incidence of maternal mortality, preterm and low birth weight babies compared to women in other racial/ethnic groups. Even more concerning is that despite a gradual decline in AA infant mortality since 2007, these infants continue to die at three times the rate of White and Asian infants. Together, these critical outcomes underscore the importance of linking AA families to key resources such as the WIC Program during these essential times of growth and development.
Breastfeeding is known to be protective against many illnesses and allergies. It is also associated with reductions in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and obesity. Nationally, AA women initiate and continue breastfeeding at significantly lower rates than other ethnic groups. To help address these disparities, PHFE WIC initiated “CinnaMoms” as an on-going special breastfeeding support group for AA mothers. CinnaMoms combines WIC expertise and hands-on breastfeeding help with peer support to normalize breastfeeding among AA mothers. CinnaMoms continues to reach out and involve other community partners in their efforts to reach more AA mothers.
Participating in WIC is associated with significant improvements in healthy birth outcomes. This is a call-to-action for all community members and partners that serve AA families to connect or reconnect with WIC.
About PHFE WIC: WIC is the USDA-funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. PHFE WIC, a program of Heluna Health, is the largest local agency WIC Program in the nation, serving over 200,000 participants each month in Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties. Currently, over two-thirds of all infants born in LA County receive WIC services. Visit us online at www.phfewic.org.
About Heluna Health: Heluna Health is a national leader in providing program and support services to optimize population health. The agency offers a full range of program development, personnel, financial and grant management support to researchers, consortia, government agencies and nonprofits. Visit www.helunahealth.org.