Over the last two years, the WIC program has undergone major changes to modernize its services. This modernization has enabled the program to enhance the services it provides to the community and find strategies that improve access and close equity gaps.
In December 2019, the Public Health Branch held a convening with the Tribe to determine how HHSA could support the tribe and connect Tribal members to additional services. During the Summer of 2021, the National WIC Association created a funding opportunity to advance Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion initiatives. Historically, Tulare County WIC has not conducted targeted engagement with specific communities. Knowing the lack of services available to the Native American population, and specifically prenatal and postpartum mothers, the opportunity to apply for this funding created an opportunity to collaborate and build a relationship with the Tule River Indian Tribe to address this gap in services and resources.
It was important to establish a bond and build trust with the tribal community; without this collaboration, progress would not be possible. That collaboration developed within months of meeting regularly, which was exciting for all involved. This enabled Tulare County WIC and Tule River tribal members to establish a task force to assess the ongoing needs of the tribe. The task force consisted of Tule River Indian Health Center (TRIHC) Executive Leadership, Purchase Referred Staff, Diabetes Educators, Tule River Outreach staff, Tule River Behavioral Health, and Tulare County WIC leadership, who would meet regularly over a ten-month period to continue to grow the collaboration.
This task force and the passion all involved demonstrated for the communities they serve has enabled WIC to integrate into the TRIHC, with services expected in the fall of 2022. While the task force continues to plan for WIC integration later this year, other opportunities have been identified to make a more immediate impact on tribal members. TRIHC staff have received education materials and are going through breastfeeding education training to offer services/education independent of the WIC program for sustainability. Currently, a resource and WIC referral process for patients is in development to ensure success this fall.
This collaboration is exciting, and this is only the beginning. Key staff and leaders in Tule River wish to also collaborate with other programs within Tulare County HHSA. It is refreshing and inspiring to work with such caring and passionate people and their positive energy to ensure that WIC finds a place in the TRIHC to connect mothers to much-needed services.
To learn how donations to the WIC program will help provide assistance to mothers and children and engaging community members and stakeholders, click here.