WIC Internship Rotation

These past two weeks I spent the majority of my time in the Monongalia and Marion County WIC offices.  With this rotation I was able to learn all about what WIC has to offer!  WIC represents the Women, Infants and Children Program, which is a federally funded nutrition education and supplemental food program.  This is an excellent opportunity for families that qualify to receive nutrition education, breastfeeding support/education, and assistance with food and other resources.  They are even working with the WIC-ICE program to offer free immunizations for children 0-5 years old!


While at WIC I realized that the number of women choosing to feed their baby using formula outnumbered the number of women breastfeeding tremendously! Out of curiosity I ended up looking up the breastfeeding rates for the states of West Virginia and Colorado as well as the national rates.

Data from CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card, 2013

Breastfeeding Rates

View entire report here!

Source: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013breastfeedingreportcard.pdf

Curious to know which state had the highest and lowest rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months? I was!  I found that the highest rate of exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months came from Idaho with 60.3% and the lowest came from Mississippi with only 17%.  When looking at the those exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, the highest came from California with 27.4% and the lowest was Tennessee with only 4.1%.  As you can see there are very large discrepancies when comparing each state!

Why is it important to breastfeed vs. formula feedings?

Here are a few of the many wonderful benefits:

  • Reduce the risk of diseases in the infant such as:
    • Necrotizing enterocolitis
    • Lower respiratory infections
    • Asthma
    • Obesity
    • Type 2 Diabetes
    • SIDS
  • Protects the baby from illnesses so they get sick less often
  • Provides benefits to the mother and helps the body return back to ‘normal’ by:
    • Burning extra calories to promoting weight loss
    • Causing the uterus to contract to prevent bleeding
  • It is safe! No need to worry about:
    • Mixing the formula
    • Safety of the water
    • Selecting the right formula
    • Formula safety recalls
  • The cost savings!

One interesting thing I learned at WIC was the cost of formula! Did you know that the average cost of formula for the first year was $1,500 dollars just for basic formula!  This number would sky rocket if an infant required a special formula (very common since formula is harder to digest than breast milk)!  This number also does not include the cost of bottle and supplies!

So, why do so many women chose not to breast feed when it is the best nutrition and supplies of a wealth of benefits for the baby and the mother that will last a lifetime – and not to mention the cost savings?

Source: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/why-breastfeeding-is-important/index.html


iCook 4-H Nutrition Education!

This past week of my rotation I primarily spent time focusing on preparing with the team for the iCook lessons. We focused on learning the material, preparing the recipes, and practicing delivering the lesson to children! When teaching children is important to remember who your audience is and know how to keep them engaged. By practicing these lesson we solidified the materials we will need and test all of our equipment. These lesson will start the first weekend of August and continue through November for a total of 6 lessons. This is awesome program that targets children between the ages of 9-10 that emphasizes family meal time, physical activity and nutrition/cooking. Below are just a few snap shots of the team and pictures of the mock lessons!

To learn more about iCook please refer to my previous post found here.

Next week will be our final week of recruitment so stay tuned for more pictures and information about iCook!

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Hula Hooping for Weight Loss?

This past week I had the opportunity to accompany the exercise physiologist to WVU Jackson’s Mill to State 4-H camp to teach a weighted hula hoop class! Yes, that’s right…the hula hoops are actually weighted, about 3 lbs. There is actually a video and a workout specially designed with these hoops. It involves hula hooping while doing various exercises such as kickboxing, squats, arm movements, and the list goes on. There are also moves designed to incorporate the use of the hula hoop in “unconventional” ways. For example, the hula hoop can be held above the head and used for a shoulder press, tricep press, and used for squats. Now, to give you an example of what in world this new phenomenon looks like I have attached multiple (embarrassing!) videos of my infamous attempts and the various moves for your enjoyment!

I have to admit the day after my hula hoop workout I felt like my ribs, hip bones were bruised! I think you would get used to it if you did if on a regular basis – just like riding a bike! Also, I am not an expert hula hooper and have not tried a regular hula hoop in years…BUT I do have to admit that the weighted hula hoops seem easier to keep up than the super light regular ones! If you are ever in a “work-out slump” and bored with your normal routines maybe you can try this (or if you are just need of a good laugh!)

What Comes First… Obesity or Insulin Resistance?

I ran across this video today and based on my interest in PCOS I found it particularly interesting. This is a doctor who shares his background and speaks to surface a new hypothesis that obesity might be a coping mechanism and not the main issue in some people. He admits how he lacked empathy and was very judgmental to overweight individuals in the past. This is an amazing video that is a great eye opener to everyone, especially healthcare providers.

Not Your Typical First Day of Classes…

Over winter break I got an email from my director inviting all of the interns (first and second years) to visit the National Agriculture Library (NAL) in College Park, Maryland for a regional collaboration with other interns for a day of “Nutrition, Communication and Information Management.” So, of course, I said YES! I spent the entire month of winter break out west, mostly in Colorado but also a week in New Mexico. I love traveling to new (and old!) places, so even though I did not get in to Morgantown until 2:00am on Saturday I was excited to travel again to Maryland on Sunday. College Park, Maryland is just over three hours from Morgantown. So, instead of heading to the office on Monday I was able to experience something new!

I had no idea what to expect when walking into the NAL that Monday morning. After talking with interns from the University of Maryland Medical Center who sat with us at our table I learned that once a month all the interns from Maryland (and other surrounding areas) gathered together and invite speakers to present on a general topic. Each internship takes a turn hosting the event so they are constantly engaging with others, sharing ideas and sharing stories of their struggles and successes. It was really great to be a part of this large event and I hope that we can build upon this relationship. Here is just a glimpse of some of the insightful information and programs I learned about during this event.

Opening Keynote – Communicating in the Digital Age: Workforce Collaboration

Tori K. Garten, Chief, New Media and Web Policy Branch, NIAID, NIH, DHHS

This was a very interesting speaker who told her story, struggles, and successes as working for the government and supporting social media and new technology. She made a good point that the government is very resilient to change and that all social media sites were banned until just recently. They have done away with print press jobs and publications and transformed those positions to work with social media, which involved a huge learning curve.  I liked this speaker because she explained the benefits of how working together in large corporation can make tax payers dollars stretch and not be used to create the same, repetitious, procedures in all departments. It really showed me how impactful social media and technology can be on a large scale.

Telehealth and Weight Management in the 21st Century

Sue A. James, MS, RD, LDN, TeleMove Coordinator

VA Maryland Health Care System

Telehealth is a program that works with veterans to improve their health through weight loss and exercise. This program is an innovative way to help veterans, who are primarily older, but are rapidly transition to include younger clientele, to become healthy using technology. This program was interesting to learn about because it shows where our future could be headed.

To learn more visit the Telehealth website.

 To learn more about TeleMove visit this website.


Luisa F. Soaterna-Castaneda, MPH Multicultural Outreach Coordinator

National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition

This is an innovative program that uses a text message for healthy tips, emergency alerts, and appointment reminders. The best part of this program is that it is totally free. In fact, users are not even deducted messages from their monthly total if they are not on an unlimited plan. This program is awesome for expecting mothers and those with infants. It also showed me that even in today’s society you can now use text messaging with a low-income (WIC) population. This was my personal favorite program that was introduced and I would definitely recommend it to future clients. It is incredibly easy to use and delivers very helpful tips!

To learn more or enroll in this free service you can visit their website.

To enroll in this service text “BABY” to 511-411 (or “BEBE” for Spanish!)


Erin Braunscheidel and Laryessa Worthington

Food Supplement Nutrition Education, University of Maryland Extension

This was an interesting program with a focus on text messaging parents in the local schools with deals on groceries, physical activity class, and useful resources, as well as things their kids did at school regarding health. This is a great program and it was interesting to learn about the struggles they had and how they made it successful. This program is currently only in the state of Maryland but hopefully it will become successful and similar programs will some day be available in all areas!

To learn more about this program visit their website by clicking here.

The National School Lunch Program

October 15-19th of 2012 has been designated as National School Lunch Week. This week is meant for communities across the nation to come together and spread the awareness for the importance of school lunches for the health of our kids. It is a very important time for school nutrition and there are big changes occurring in all school districts. If you have watched the news lately, chances are that you have heard multiple viewpoints regarding the changes to the school lunch program. With childhood obesity being the huge problem that it currently is in America, school nutrition is at the front line for both scrutiny and opportunity.  Recently, I had the opportunity to lecture for an Honors Nutrition course at West Virginia University (HNF 498). I took this as a chance to speak to the students about the most recent revision of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act entitled the “Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.”

Ironically, one of the most targeted complaints is that kids are still hungry due to the addition of the calorie restrictions on school lunches regardless of the title, “Healthy HUNGER-FREE Kids Act of 2010.” Interested to see how some of the students feel? Watch this video that a group of high school students and teacher from Kansas made entitled, “We Are Hungry.” You can also read the article centered around this video here.

This is a very fine line and a very heated argument with good points coming from both sides. Overfeeding children contributes to obesity, while underfeeding leads to poor growth and poor performance. Critics are approaching this argument from many angles. Because food insecurity is an increasing issue, it is not uncommon that a significant portion of students is receiving most, if not all of their meals from the school lunch program. On the other end of the spectrum other kids are filling up on high-calorie, high-fat, and low-nutrient foods and sugary beverages. An article published in the NY Times pointed out a very strong opinion. This article contained a quote from the USDA that stated that according to previous federal audits showed that the average high school lunch before the calories restrictions contained only 730 calories which happens to be under the current regulations of 750-850 calories. While students are currently complaining that they are not being given enough food, the reality of it is – most students are probably just not consuming the foods that they are offered. Psychologists have shown that it can take up to 10 times of exposing a new food to a child before they will even try it, let only accept it. These changes will take time and I think the kids will learn to adjust once both sides work together to form a compromise.

If you are interested in learning more about National School Lunch Week click here and if you would like to read about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act click here.

What are your thoughts on the calorie restriction for school lunches?

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month: A Look at the Big Picture

In lieu of September being Childhood Obesity Awareness Month I wanted to look at the big picture of childhood obesity, as well as the entirety of obesity as a National epidemic.

Shocking New Trends for Obesity

A recent report released new findings that if changes are NOT made and the current trend continues, 39 states will have obesity rates soaring above 50% by 2030. Keep in mind that is only the number of adults who are obese (BMI >30) and does not include those who are only considered overweight (BMI between 25-30). This is a HUGE problem for America. Think back to 20 years ago. No state had obesity levels above 15%, yet in 20 years all 50 states could have obesity rates above 44%. 13 states would have obesity rates above 60% with Mississippi tipping the scales with 66%. Colorado would reign of being the “skinniest state” but it’s obesity rates would increase from today rate of 20.7% to 45%. Although they would still have their “bragging rights,” 45% is nothing to be proud of. Since my recent move from Colorado to West Virginia where the obesity rate is currently 32.4%, earning them the title of the 3rd most obese state, the difference was beyond obvious. I cannot imagine seeing those rates more than double in the next 20 years — something needs to change! Click here to view an interactive map with state-by-state data on the current and projected obesity rates for 2030. Currently, roughly 2/3 (66%) of all adults are overweight or obese, which translates to only 33% of adults in America being at a healthy weight. Nation-wide obesity levels total 35.7% of the US population. Obesity is now a nation-wide epidemic and not just concentrated in the South.

2010 Map of State Obesity Rates

2010 Map of State Obesity Rates
Source: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

Want to see how obesity has dramatically increased over the years? Click here to see the obesity map change from 1985 to today!

Obesity: An Unnecessary Expense

Not only is obesity a huge health concern, it also could lead to an economic crisis. The amount of money spent towards health-care cost will skyrocket from the increased prevalence in diabetes, heart disease, and other comorbidites of obesity. This report projected that by 2030 America will see an additional 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and over 400,000 new incidences of cancer that is directly related to obesity. These levels are already extremely high with 25 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, 27 million with chronic heart disease, 68 million with hypertension (high blood pressure), and 50 million with arthritis today. If obesity continues on the current trend we can easily expect to see an increase of 18 billion dollars each year, which does not account for a decrease in productivity!

View the full report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012 at the Trust for America’s Health.

“Reversing” the Trend

Obesity is considered to be “one of the most challenging health crisis that this country has ever faced.” When we look at starting to “correct” this trend and being able to reduce obesity rates we need to be implementing and promoting small changes for adults. In America, weight loss is promoted as something that should be quick and easy and can be bought; in fact, permanent weight loss should be close to the opposite and should be looked at as a steady loss of 1-2 pounds a week. Increasing exercise, decreasing portion sizes, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and decreasing high-calorie, low-nutrient foods could lead to the change in the trend of obesity that America needs.

When looking at future trends, our focus also needs to be towards preventing children from becoming obese and ultimately eliminated childhood obesity. Since 2010, the month of September has been dedicated to looking at childhood obesity and raising awareness. Today, nearly one-third of children and teens are either overweight or obese. Since 1980, the rate of childhood obesity has tripled! It has been suggested that this is the first time that children may have a shorter life span their parents. Think about how this can really impact America.

What caused the increase in childhood obesity?

Think back to when you where a kid or to what your parents told you about their childhood. Compare your activity levels and those of your parents with children today and you will most likely see a significant difference in activity levels and habits of children today. Thirty years ago, children walked to school, participated in daily physical education, spent recess being active, and ran around the neighborhood until dinner. Now-a-days children ride buses to school and are replacing their time that was once spent actively playing with playing video games, watching TV and chatting online. The average 8 to 18 year-old spends 7.5 hours each day using TV, computers, video games, cell phones, and movies. Physical education programs and after-school sports are being decreased and even eliminated in some schools to the point that only 1/3 of children are meeting the recommended daily activity levels of just one hour. Back in the day, more meals were home-cooked, less processed, and portion sizes were reasonable. Today, parents tend to be busier resulting in less home-cooked meals. Snacks were once consumed only once or twice a day and now one in five school-aged children consume up to six snacks a day! Portion sizes have increased up to five times larger than they were in the 1970’s.  As Americans, we are now consuming 31% more calories than we were in the 1970’s, yet our activity levels have plummeted. Combine the lack of physical activity with the “fast food nation” our children are exposed to and the result is childhood obesity. It is shocking to find out that many children are unaware of where their food is even coming from and cannot identify the names of common fruits and vegetables. We are setting our children up for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, a shorten life span, decreased productivity, and decreased success rates. This needs to end! Children establish their habits and eating behaviors early on and need to have the proper education and resources to do so.

Childhood Hunger and Obesity 

In America we tend to be fighting a double-edged sword when it comes to children and nutrition; obesity and hunger. Although, we tend to associate obesity with having more than enough access to food that is not always the case. One in seven low-income preschool aged children are now obese. One way to fight this epidemic is to look at the source. Most children are receiving meals through the schools and making those meals healthier, more nutritious, and more available can work to fight both ends of the spectrum. I will focus directly on school lunches and legislation involved childhood nutrition in a future blog post during National School Lunch Week, which is October 15-19th. If you would like to get more involved in helping fight against childhood obesity or learn more about it please check out the COAM at http://www.healthierkidsbrighterfutures.org and the Let’s Move initiative at http://www.letsmove.gov/learn-facts/epidemic-childhood-obesity. Are a student at West Virginia University or a resident of Morgantown? Check out what WVU and local programs in the area are doing to help fight against by clicking here.



F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012