I did my practicum at the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Arlington, Virginia and my project summary will talk about the background of the organization which includes its' mission, the projects that I conducted during my practicum which were educating WIC parents about nutrition in English and Spanish, administering a transportation survey for Arlington County, and educating WIC mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding in English and Spanish, my practicum experience at WIC and its relationship to the coursework completed during the MPH program which includes food, culture, and nutrition and weight management, and reflection of my practicum experience which includes learning about different culture eating practices. At WIC my objectives were to learn about the policy and practices of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program in Virginia when working with an immigrant population, develop an understanding of the culture eating practices of families from Asia, Central America, South America, Africa and the Middle-East, provide nutrition education and the benefits of breastfeeding in English and Spanish to the WIC clients from different cultures which are Asians, Hispanics (Central Americans and South Americans), Africans and Middle-Eastern. I have met my objectives throughout my practicum experience at WIC.
Background of the organization
WIC is an extraordinary, Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The program provides nutrition education, breast feeding promotion, support and encouragement, supplemental nutritious foods, counseling at WIC clinics, and screening and referrals, welfare, and social services (WIC, 2010). WIC's mission is "to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at nutrition risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care" (WIC, 2010). The aim of the program is to enhance the health of pregnant women, infants and children less than 5 years through better nutrition and access to health care (WIC, 2010). To qualify for the WIC Program, applicants must meet categorical, residential, income and nutrition risk requirements.
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"As a member of WIC they have the right to be treated with respect regardless of Race, Creed, Nationality or Ability, expect confidentiality, privacy of their information, appeal if they believe they are denied benefits unfairly, and be seen within a certain period of time based on their status (pregnant, breastfeeding or infant)" (WIC, 2010). As a member of WIC they have the responsibility to treat WIC staff and vendors and that includes retail store staff with respect at all times, utilize their WIC food instruments (FIs) accurately, not obtain WIC benefits from another clinic, district or another state or under another name, notify WIC if your status changes, for example that would be if you have a miscarriage or a change in custody of a child or infant, and provide eligibility information and consent to medical treatment for the child or infant listed (WIC, 2010).
The participant has to fit into one of 4 categories to be eligible to obtain and apply for benefits and services. The categories are as follows: pregnant/postpartum, breastfeeding, an infant less than 1 year old, and children less than 5 years old.
WIC provides a nutrition assessment to determine if the participant is at nutritional risk. This can be because of either a medical condition such as low iron or severe anemia or a diet with too many or not enough nutrients (WIC, 2010). WIC wants to make sure that they provide the client with education and supplemental foods that help support a healthy way of life (WIC, 2010).
It can amaze the participant to know how much they can earn and still be eligible for WIC benefits. If the participant is pregnant, the participant and her baby count as two people (WIC, 2010). Families who are presently enrolled in Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan (FAMIS), Family Access to Medical Insurance Security Plan Moms (FAMIS MOMS), Food Stamp Program (SNAP), and/or the National School Lunch Program which includes free or reduced school lunches can automatically meet the financial requirements for the Virginia WIC Program, but the participant will have to provide proof of present enrollment (WIC, 2010). The participant must provide proof of their income to their local WIC office each time they are certified. Proof includes a recent Medicaid or FAMIS card, the most recent pay stubs (or LES for military) of all the people who are working in the household, a TANF printout with case number, and Food Stamps (SNAP) "Notice of Eligibility" (WIC, 2010).
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Proof of residency includes recent Virginia driver's license, recent Medicaid card, business mail with a Virginia address such as a phone or utility bill, rent or mortgage receipts, etc. If the participant is in the military and just moved to Virginia, the following items can also be utilized as proof of residency: a letter from the Company Commander on official letterhead, copy of official Department of Defense orders with Virginia installation assignment or leave and earning statement (LES) listing Virginia as the service member's Home of Record (WIC, 2010).
Each time clients get certified clients rights and responsibilities will be explained and a copy given to them, clients can pick a Caretaker and/or Proxy, only if they have difficulty being present, clients can be checked for their weight, height and iron levels, clients will obtain basic nutrition information, a WIC staff member can refer clients to other medical or social services programs to meet clients family's needs such as Medicaid, TANF, FAMIS, FAMIS MOMS, Food Stamp Program (SNAP), breastfeeding promotion group, drug counseling and/or stop smoking programs, a food package will be made to meet the client and/or the clients family's needs, the client will obtain WIC food instruments and be instructed on how to use them, and a WIC staff member will schedule the clients next nutrition education appointment (WIC, 2010).
The WIC Program chooses, supports and encourages breastfeeding as the most excellent way to feed a baby. Breastfeeding offers a lot of benefits to infants, which cannot be created in any other form of feeding (WIC, 2010). WIC is dedicated to supporting breastfeeding women and their families. WIC supports breastfeeding by having trained staff help WIC mothers with breastfeeding their baby, having breastfeeding peer counselors available for additional support, and having breastfeeding equipment, like pads and pumps (WIC, 2010).
Summary of work/project conducted during practicum
Nutrition education is a significant part of WIC. Every participant receives nutrition information two to four times during the certification period, unless high risk sessions are required. The education contacts can be individual counseling sessions, group sessions with a WIC staff member, internet-based education sessions, and computer based education sessions at the clients local WIC office. One of the projects I did at WIC was nutrition education and one of the lessons plan that I used to educate WIC parents was 9-5-2-1-0 for Health. The 9-5-2-1-0 for Health is a project of the Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition. 9 stands for get at least nine hours of sleep, 5 stands for eat five servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 stands for limit screen time to 2 hours or less, 1 stands for get at least 1 hour of physical activity, and 0 stands for eliminate sugary drinks.
The other project I did was that I conducted a transportation survey at WIC for Arlington County and the purpose of this survey was to see how many WIC clients rode the bus. If the majority of clients ride the bus then Arlington County will give free bus tokens. The transportation survey had 7 categories which were personal automobile, received a ride, metro subway, taxi, metro bus, ART bus, and other. I would introduce myself first then explain what the transportation survey was about and then ask WIC clients what kind of transportation did they use to come to WIC and I would put their response on the survey. At this point the transportation that is used the most is the ART bus which is the Arlington bus.
The other project I did was to educate WIC mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding in English and Spanish. The benefits of breastfeeding that I used to educate WIC mothers were that breastmilk has everything the baby needs to grow, breastfeeding can protect the baby from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), breastfeeding creates a special bond between the mother and her baby, breastmilk helps keep the baby healthy, breastmilk changes to meet the growing baby's needs, breastmilk is always warm and ready to feed, breastfeeding can help protect the mother from breast and ovarian cancers, and the longer the mother breastfeeds the baby, the greater the health benefits (WIC, 2010).
Practicum experience and its relationship to the coursework completed during the MPH program
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The coursework completed during the MPH program has a relationship to my practicum experience when it comes to food and culture because at WIC I learned about different kind of eating behaviors and foods, diet, and nutrition from different cultural perspectives and developed an understanding of the culture eating practices of families from Asia, Central America, South America, Africa, and the Middle-East.
There is also a relationship to my practicum experience and nutrition and weight management, because it applies to my practicum experience at WIC because I educated WIC parents about the health consequences of childhood obesity and educated WIC parents about giving their children healthy foods and eliminating sugary drinks.
Reflection of practicum experience
At WIC I learned that Philippines eat rice and a dish named Adobo. Adobo can have meat, pork or chicken and it is cooked tender, it has vinegar, soy sauce, pepper, and garlic. I learned that for dessert they eat fresh fruits, mango, and rice cakes and for beverages they drink water, soda, orange juice, and sago at gulaman which is sweet and made with water and caramelized sugar.
I learned that people from El Salvador eat corn and chicken tamales, pupusas, chicken sandwiches, steak with rice, beans, tortillas, cheese, and salad. I learned that for dessert they eat rice pudding and atol de elote and they drink juices, horchata, and sevada which is made of milk, water, canella, and vanilla.
I learned that people from Bolivia eat salteñas, pique a lo macho, and silpancho. I learned that for dessert they eat flan and fruit salads and they drink fruit juice, sodas, and jugos del valle.
I learned that people from Eritrea which is in Africa eat anjara which is made from flour and they eat meat and vegetarian soup. I learned that they drink suwa made from barley and gesho and meis is made from pure honey, gesho, and water.
I learned that people from Saudi Arabia eat khobz a type of bread, lamb, grilled chicken, and shawarma. I learned that they drink tea and juice.
It was interesting to learn about how important it is for children to get 9 hours of sleep and to limit screen time to no more than 2 hours each day and that includes television, computers, and video games and learning about the amount of servings for children 2 to 6 years old.
In one of the literatures previously reviewed in the annotated bibliography I made a connection at my practicum experience at WIC where I learned that WIC does not encourage diets for children but WIC does encourage reduction in the amount of ounces of milk or juice that is given to the child daily if the child is overweight or at high-risk and I used this information when educating WIC parents about not putting their children on diets and encouraging getting at least 1 hour of exercise each day.
At WIC I have learned about its' mission, administration, nutrition education which includes individual and group, and the benefits of breastfeeding. My three objectives have been met in my practicum experience at WIC. WIC was a great practicum experience for me because I educated WIC parents about nutrition, breastfeeding, and conducted a transportation survey. I educated WIC parents about the health consequences of childhood obesity and the solutions to that issue. At WIC I learned about different culture eating practices in different countries. I learned that WIC does not encourage diets for children but WIC does encourage reduction in the amount of ounces of milk or juice given per a day. I am glad that I had this practicum experience at WIC because it has enhanced my career.Â