Maternity Full Court Press Team Convenes on PA WIC Collaboration

Dr. Debra Bogen spoke during the Maternity Full Court Press meeting.

On November 29, the Maternity Full Court Press Team met to explore collaborative opportunities to help achieve common service delivery goals for Pennsylvania's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC participation in Pennsylvania has been decreasing for years, and stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic have hastened this trend. The Maternity Full Court Press Team and guests provided input on the development of a state WIC advisory group, and how stakeholders can help to achieve this vision and pursue a collective action plan.

Cindy Findley, deputy secretary for health promotion and disease prevention at the PA Department of Health, and Faith Haussler, director of intergovernmental affairs at the PA Department of Health, spoke about the statewide goals for WIC. The state WIC Bureau conducted outreach to WIC stakeholders to determine characteristics of WIC advisory board groups and will incorporate stakeholder feedback into their development. A main goal is to increase WIC participation, and many stakeholders surveyed expressed interest in serving on the WIC advisory board.

Debra Bogen, MD, director of the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD), shared her goals and aspirations for WIC services in Allegheny County. She shared that ACHD is actively evaluating the WIC Program and planning for innovative services, such as co-locating WIC sites at birth hospitals and pediatric practices and a travelling WIC van to meet clients where they are. They also plan to increase access to both large chain and small grocery stores in areas of need. Dr. Bogen called for a need to examine WIC regulations to determine whether they benefit people who use WIC or create barriers.

JHF Chief Policy Officer Robert Ferguson, MPH, led a discussion of next steps on the PA WIC Program, and how to address challenges families are facing. The team's suggestions included conducting data collection on family needs through social worker outreach, encouraging practitioners to refer more families to WIC, providing transportation support, simplifying the process to enroll and access benefits, exploring how to support sustainability of projects at WIC agencies, and addressing workforce challenges.

Maternity Full Court Press Team Lead Pat Siger closed the meeting and shared that the team has made progress in 2021 to put a process in place for doula certification in 2022 and Medicaid reimbursement in 2023. The Health Careers Futures Board will resume its regular meetings in 2022, and it will focus those meetings on maternal workforce issues in 2022 and invited team members interested in this topic to remain connected to JHF. 

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