District of Columbia: Breaking Down Barriers with Technology

Nationwide, families experience a range of barriers when trying to enroll in WIC. DC WIC is actively working to reduce access barriers  including transportation, misconceptions about eligibility, and stigma. DC WIC local agencies are strategically co-located in federally qualified health centers and hospital systems and focused on strengthening partnerships and referral networks with healthcare providers. The DC WIC State Agency applied for the THIS-WIC grant opportunity to accelerate use of telehealth technology and make it easier for families and WIC staff to access and deliver services.  


Project Overview

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the DC WIC State Agency quickly applied for all federal waivers and prepared local agencies to continue providing services to WIC clients. Local agencies delivered services remotely via telephone and videoconference through Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Doxy.me. DC WIC’s project will evaluate implementation of telehealth activities and identify best practices to scale up use of telehealth across all WIC clinics.    


Contracting and Request for Proposal (RFP) 

The DC WIC Agency supported local agencies to utilize their organizational telehealth tools, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom licenses, to deliver remote services. DC WIC found that health centers and hospitals generally prefer to use their own telehealth technology tools due to security concerns and interoperability with their individual electronic medical record systems.  

Advice for Others

Phased Implementation

DC WIC recommends a phased roll out of telehealth technology.  Due the pandemic, DC WIC quickly transitioned all local agencies to remote services. However, a phased approach would allow for piloting, identifying and resolving challenges, and rolling out statewide. Also, a phased approach will enable individual pieces of technology to be tested and learned by staff and then implemented.  

Training for a Range of Technology Skills

DC WIC recommends tailoring training strategies to meet a range of technology skills. For many adults, technology can be confusing – and intimidating – especially for individuals who have minimal or no experience using it.  Local Agency staff knowledge and confidence using technology is critical to the success of implementation. State Agencies should develop and implement a thorough training plan, incorporating all elements of adults learning.  

Telehealth Champions

When rolling out change within local agencies, it is critical to identify individuals to serve as champions.  The DC WIC State Agency recognized that multiple local agency workflows and processes were changing with the integration of telehealth technology. Each local agency identified a team member to promote the telehealth solution to others and serve as a team lead during trainings. Champions also worked one-on-one with staff that needed extra support.  

Engage and Empower Staff

The DC WIC State Agency recommends engaging local agency staff early in the planning phases to roll out telehealth technology. It is critical to meet with local agency staff to understand and map out how each piece of telehealth technology will impact work flows for each position or role. During pilot and roll out of telehealth technology, DC WIC recommends meeting with local agency staff regularly to identify successes as well as challenges.  State Agencies should hear from local agency staff and incorporate their feedback into solutions to better integrate telehealth tools into their everyday work.  

 DC WIC presents a unique perspective on telehealth implementation as they looked at what the local agencies were already doing and expanded upon these technologies. DC WIC hopes to serve as an example for the need for telehealth in other WIC agencies. 

The District of Columbia WIC Team 

Rebecca Bailey, Public Health Analyst, Nutrition and Physical Fitness Bureau, DC Health

Sara Beckwith, Bureau Chief, Nutrition and Physical Fitness Bureau, DC Health

Akua Boateng, WIC State Director, DC Health 

Donna Dunston, WIC Director, Mary’s Center

Doris Kuehn, Project Coordinator, WIC Program, DC Health

Anthony Panzera, Professorial Lecturer, Department of Health Studies, American University

Katie Scott-Andrews, Research Coordinator, Department of Health Studies, American University

Swathi Vinjamuri, Software Developer, Nutrition and Physical Fitness Bureau, DC Health

Jessica Young, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Studies, American University

For more information on District of Columbia WIC please visit their website here