Roanna Martin

"make [food] simple and let things taste of what they are." {Curnonsky}


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WIC in Words

         I just wanted to share with you loyal readers a bit more about my experience at WIC (Women, Infants, and Children). 

            After learning about WIC in classes, it was extremely beneficial to be present in a clinic where I could see policy in practice. Throughout the 80+ hours of my rotation, I was able to learn about the “big-picture” policy, and shadow a large number of nutritionists in both the main Lancaster City clinic and in the smaller county clinics in Columbia and Ephrata.

            The busy clinic in the city was able to serve a large number of participants each day, and the demographics were notably different than in the county clinics. In both Columbia and Ephrata the nutritionists were responsible for more of the visit (i.e. lab work) than in the main clinic. I was also able to engage with other community agencies that provide services to low-income women and children such as Healthy Beginnings Plus and HeadStart.

            I learned a variety of practices and techniques specific to WIC, such as the contents of the supplement packages, and the VENA (Value Enhanced Nutrition Assessment) model. Although my rotation was too short to develop a firm grasp of the utilization of the QuickWIC (electronic documentation) system, I was able to become competent enough to perform nutrition evaluations and issue checks with the supervision of a nutritionist. I truly enjoyed sitting with each of the nutritionists (14 in total) and learning their style of nutrition counseling. Each one brings strengths to counseling that I was able to learn from.

            I developed a basic understanding of WIC policy, and refreshed my knowledge on maternal and child nutrition. In particular, the developmental stages of infants and the recommended timeline for introducing new foods and feeding practices was a good review. The opportunity to practice my Spanish language skills and enhance my vocabulary- particularly the colloquial “Spanglish” spoken in the region- was beneficial.

            I need to continue to develop my nutrition counseling skills, and I believe that this will come with more experience. In particular, I would like to continue to strengthen my ability in helping the client to share what motivates them to make change, and help them to identify ways that they could make a change.

           While it has it’s flaws, I see a lot of benefits of the WIC program for low-income, nutritionally at-risk mothers and infants.  

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Text4Baby

At the beginning of this month I attended a joint intern class day on Nutrition Informatics at the National Agriculture Library in Washington, DC. Various speakers were discussing ways that technology is being used to distribute health information.

One of the presentations was about the national program text4baby a completely free program that provides health information directly to the cell phones of pregnant women and mothers of infants up to one year old. And by free- I really mean free- major cell phone companies have agreed to not charge recipients of the text messages, even if they don’t have a texting plan! It’s a really neat concept, and I was eager to learn more about it.

One of the presenters suggested that we sign up for the program and receive messages, just to see what kind of things mothers are receiving. So I did, setting my graduation date as my false “due date”- and I’ve been getting reminders to take my prenatal vitamins, and visit my doctor, and even info about access to health insurance! 

Last week at my WIC rotation, I was able to sit in on a webinar where I learned that text4baby is partnering with WIC to offer free appointment reminders to WIC clients. Like anything, it’s not perfect- it does take a minute or two for a mom to sign up for the program (but that is a small amount compared to what a lot of people spend on their phones), and she has to text the system every time she wants to schedule her next appointment.

So, as one of my projects for WIC, I made a brief powerpoint that can be used as an inservice for nutritionists- to help them share about the program with their clients.

 

 

My experience at WIC has been really great so far. I was able to personally do nutrition education and issue checks for about 15-20 families in the past few days. I needed an experienced nutritionist beside me, though, because I am still learning the computer system!


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Just Rotating Away…

 I have been quite occupied recently- with events such as the GoRed Day (so beautifully documented by my fellow intern Emily) and working on my masters thesis.

I don’t remember if I’ve shared with my blog readers or not, but my masters thesis is looking at the relationships among families having home food gardens and preschool children’s intake of fruits and vegetables, and their weight status. The data is finally coming in, and my time has been filled by playing around with STATA- a statistical software that speaks a completely different language than what I’m used to. Let’s just say that I’m learning a lot, and I’m also glad that I didn’t choose a computer or math-related field of study! 

The plan is to present my research at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston at the end of April, and I am submitting my abstract for the conference tomorrow. I have a few more weeks to finish up writing the rest of my thesis, so my laptop and I are becoming even more acquainted than ever before. Exciting results are pending- kiddos in the study who had a home food garden ate more dark green and deep yellow/orange veggies!

Thesis work aside, I am also currently doing a community rotation at WIC- Women, Infants, and Children, a “federally funded program that provides healthy supplemental foods and nutrition services for pregnant women, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children under age five in a supportive environment.”

Since this is a nationwide program, I am really excited that my internship was flexible enough that I am able to complete my WIC rotation at the Community Action Program of Lancaster.

 

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Since I’m originally from Lancaster, I’m able to live with my parents for a few weeks and get to know some dietitians in the area (and spend some time with my 6 adorable nieces and nephews). One of the most exciting things is that I have been able to use my Spanish skills on a daily basis.

Contrary to popular belief, there are actually more Latinos than Amish in Lancaster County, according to a December 19, 2010 article in the Sunday News. Many are bilingual, but a number of the clients that I have seen in the past week prefer to use Spanish, and I love being able to communicate directly with them without the use of a translator. To be sure, my vocabulary needs a little augmentation, but if I don’t know a specific term I can at least describe it enough to get the point across. 

I will try to post soon a bit more about some of the things I am learning, but in the meantime if you want to find out more about WIC, you can check out the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) information, or my friend Mary’s blog on her WIC rotation in West Virginia.

A quick summary of interactions with clients: we encourage mothers and their children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Honestly, that’s really what it comes down to! 

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As a side note, people often do a double take when I tell them that I am currently a student at West Virginia University- but then I explain that I am originally from the Lancaster area, and then it makes a bit more sense. I like being able to spread some Mountaineer Pride to my home state!