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Health Dept. observes WIC program anniversary

PRINCETON – The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department is joining with the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

According to IDHS secretary Michelle Saddler, the WIC program is the nation’s public health nutrition program, promoting healthy lifestyles and making a true difference every day in the lives of women, infants and children in Illinois. The program provides supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding promotion and support, health screenings and referrals to eligible families, she said.

Nearly 40 percent of all babies born in Illinois are WIC participants, Saddler said. Research shows that WIC has been successful in the reduction of fetal deaths, infant mortality, low birth weight rates, iron deficiency anemia in children and increased immunization rates, she said.

Locally, the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department has offered a WIC program for more than 20 years, said Laurie Geuther, director of nursing for the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department. The health department’s current assigned caseload is 834 women and children, she said.

“Because the WIC program starts with pregnancy, the program helps promote better birth outcome through nutrition,” Geuther said. “Obviously we love having children from birth up to their fifth birthday. The WIC program is a very evidence-based program that helps give kids a better headstart nutritionally in life. We love providing services to our clients and we love new WIC participants.”

To be eligible to take advantage of the local WIC program, the person must be a resident of the county and fit in the WIC income eligibility guidelines, Geuther said.

As stated on the WIC website, an applicant must have income at or below an income level or standard set by the individual state agency or be determined automatically income-eligible based on participation in certain programs. Applicants must be seen by a health professional such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist who must determine whether the individual is at nutrition risk. In many cases, this is done in the WIC clinic at no cost to the applicant.

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