SD boosts outreach for WIC participation
Thursday, September 21, 2023
South Dakota health leaders have said it can be a challenge to reach people eligible for a long-standing nutrition assistance program for at-risk new mothers and young children, and a new grant aims to boost outreach.
The Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, part of the University of South Dakota, said a $1 million federal grant will bring together partner groups and public health offices to enhance outreach for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children known as WIC.
Rhonda Buntrock, WIC director for the South Dakota Department of Health, said across South Dakota, about 70% of those eligible are accessing the benefits. She said closing the remaining gap will help produce better outcomes.
"Overall, we would hopefully see increased breastfeeding rates, we would see a decrease in obesity rates," Buntrock explained.
The department said enrollment tapers off for families with kids around three or four years old. National participation numbers are worse, with only about half of those eligible actually participating.
In South Dakota, health officials say there can be language barriers or other information gaps. The project aims to study those barriers, establish mobile units, and improve training for WIC staff.
Shelby Kommes, public health prevention coordinator for the Sioux Falls Health Department, said working parents trying to make ends meet do not always have the time to sign up. As for those who speak little English, the language barriers can become a big factor in certain situations.
"We're utilizing the children to be translators in some cases," Kommes pointed out. "That just creates a barrier in it of itself and it's not always easy for children to understand what's going on."
Darla Biel, interim director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment, said boosting enrollment can help prevent abuse and neglect.
"The CDC has strategies for preventing child maltreatment, childhood adversity and violence against children," Biel noted. "One of them is about ensuring a strong start for all children."
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