Launching New Digital Tools for WIC Participants: A Guide for WIC Agencies

mother and childUPDATE (2/26/19): The WIC toolkit is now available here. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to children up to age 5 who may be at nutritional risk. In many places, the local WIC agencies that carry out these services for WIC parents and children are seeking to adopt technology solutions to help their participants get the most from the WIC program. While some have begun to offer participants online tools, mobile apps, video calls, and text messaging, other WIC agencies don’t have all the information they need to help them make the best choices in participant-facing technology.

To empower these agencies in making smart technology choices, Social Interest Solutions (SIS), in partnership with The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the National WIC Association, is developing a comprehensive guide, or toolkit. The toolkit will describe best practice WIC technology solutions currently on the market to aid participants with a variety of tasks, including text reminders for setting and keeping appointments, online and mobile apps that help moms fulfill nutrition education requirements, breastfeeding support, and mobile apps to help moms who are shopping with their WIC benefits.

Additionally, the toolkit will identify the technology and design features agencies may want to consider from vendors, the kind of planning and decisions WIC programs need to make in advance of purchasing tools, and key questions agencies might want to raise with potential vendors. The information we will share is based not only on a robust review of choices in the market, but also from a series of interviews SIS conducted with WIC staff from several different states, local agencies, and Indian Tribal Organizations (ITOs).

“The ultimate goal is to provide information that will help WIC agency staff evaluate the participant-facing tools that are currently available so that they can incorporate those that will help ensure that participants can get the most out of the WIC program,” says Hilary Dockray, senior policy analyst for SIS. For agency staff, effective technology solutions have the potential to relieve them of certain administrative burdens, freeing up their time to give participants the kind of personal care and attention that cannot be replaced by technology.

In short, by using the SIS toolkit, WIC agencies will:

  • Learn more about types of existing technology solutions for WIC participants.
  • Identify things agencies might want to consider before choosing and introducing a new participant-facing technology solution to their practice.
  • Ascertain key questions to raise with vendors to help select the right technology solutions for their needs
  • Recognize user experience design elements to look for in existing tools or when designing new products, and
  • Understand things to consider when making an outreach plan to get the technology into the hands of WIC participants.

We’ll release more information about the toolkit in the upcoming months.

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