The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded Erin Hennessy, PhD, MPH, assistant professor at Tufts' Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, a grant of $8.5 million to test and evaluate the use of telehealth innovations in delivery of USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
WIC provides supplemental food, nutrition education (including breastfeeding promotion and support), and referrals to health care and other social services to low-income, nutritionally at-risk women, infants, and children up to 5 years of age. On average, over half of all infants in the United States, over a quarter of all pregnant and postpartum women, and over a quarter of all children less than 5 years of age participate in the program.
The overarching goal of the Tufts WIC Telehealth Intervention and Evaluation Project is to develop cutting-edge technology to improve delivery of nutrition education to pregnant women and caregivers of young children participating in WIC, particularly for those clients who have a hard time getting to WIC clinics, like those in rural areas. This interdisciplinary project, led by Principal Investigator Erin Hennessy, brings together Tufts University School of Medicine, Old Dominion University, the American Telemedicine Association, RTI International, and a national Advisory Board of WIC and telehealth practitioners and scientists.
Specifically, the project will:
- Create, disseminate, and administer a competitive awards process to support WIC State Agencies to use telehealth technologies to enhance their nutrition education and breastfeeding support services and decrease barriers to access;
- Provide technical support to WIC State Agencies during the awards process and throughout implementation of the interventions;
- Comprehensively evaluate the impact of the awards;
- Disseminate promising and successful initiatives to WIC programs across the US states and territories.
The Tufts WIC Telehealth Intervention and Evaluation Project addresses USDA’s broader goal of developing a robust evidence base to support cost-effective telehealth interventions in WIC, improve client outcomes, and increase client retention. The evaluation will provide evidence to inform future decisions about whether and how the USDA WIC program may scale telehealth projects in the future.
Acknowledgement: This project has been funded at least in part with Federal Funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.