More Bourbon County families are getting the food and resources they need to be healthy due to a new collaboration between Mercy Hospital Fort Scott and the Crawford County Health Department, which provides Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to Bourbon County.
In October, the Crawford County Health Department partnered with Mercy to bring WIC counseling services for pregnant women and new mothers to the hospital. Personnel from the health department meet with new and ongoing clients the last Wednesday of every month at the hospital.
Additional clinics are held at Buck Run Community Center the first Tuesday and second and third Thursday of each month.
“Since starting the clinic at Mercy, we have seen the number of participants jump from three in October to 23 in December,” said Linda Timme, MS, RDN, LD, CBE, nutrition services coordinator at Crawford County Health Department. “This validates the significant need for continuing WIC services and other services for families in the Bourbon County area.”
The goal of the partnership between Mercy and the WIC clinic is to ensure families have access to supplemental food, nutritional education and other vital health care and social services.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, WIC serves 53 percent of all infants born in the United States.
Statistics for Bourbon County demonstrate the importance of offering WIC services to the area residents. For example, the number of babies born at a low-birth-weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces) is on the upswing, despite the national numbers declining.
Additional research by County Health Ranking and Roadmaps show families in Bourbon County are more likely to have limited access to healthy foods and lack a steady and reliable source for food than families in other areas of the country.
The idea of merging WIC with Mercy originated from the Healthy Bourbon County Action Team’s Healthcare Pathways Subcommittee.
“Our focus is to take care of the whole person—including the social determinants of health, said Jody Hoener, LBSW, MBA, Mercy Clinic quality and community benefit liaison. “Before offering the WIC clinic at Mercy, pregnant women at Mercy’s Maternal and Infant Clinic found it difficult to make it to both their prenatal appointment and their WIC appointment due to work schedules and limited time off or finding transportation. We didn’t want these mothers to have to choose between eating healthy food or receiving prenatal care.”
Mercy dietician Sherise Beckham, MS, RD, LD, hopes the collaboration will help moms by connecting them to services in one location.
“We’re hoping Mercy can provide a one-stop-shop for mothers to access great obstetric care, prenatal/postnatal education and all the resources WIC has to offer them,” Beckham said. “Many of the mothers we see in the maternal and infant clinic also participate in WIC so it seemed a natural fit to begin a working relationship between WIC and Mercy. As a dietitian, I hope this will help eliminate barriers for these mothers to access nutrition education. I hope this collaboration will reinforce the importance a healthy diet and lifestyle is for them and their children.”
WIC’s target population is low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant women, breastfeeding women, non-breastfeeding postpartum women, infants, and children up to their 5th birthday.
For more information about the monthly WIC clinic at Mercy, contact Jody Hoener at 620-223-7029.