Some of the challenges and successes of the Isanti County Community Health Board were shared during the Isanti County Board meeting on July 7.

Yvonne Sievert, Isanti County’s Women, Infants and Children program coordinator, explained how the program survived the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as information about the resource management evaluation.

WIC helps eligible pregnant women, new mothers, babies and young children up to age 5, eat well, learn about nutrition, and stay healthy. WIC also provides nutrition education and counseling, nutritious foods, and referrals to health and other social services.

“So COVID upended all of our lives, as we all know,” Sievert said. “But thankfully, early on in the pandemic, they (United State Department of Agriculture) put in place some waivers, they changed some of the requirements for WIC, so we didn’t have to see people in person.”

The USDA changes allowed WIC not to collect height, weight and other information the program typically gathered from applicants before the pandemic.

“So we were able to continue providing food support, and nutrition education and breastfeeding and patient support,” Sievert said.

She said that the WIC staff and participants adjusted to the changes caused by COVID-19 rapidly. The monthly participation increased a little during the pandemic. Currently, WIC is serving around 710 people per month, she added.

“We are also happy to see that our breastfeeding rates in Isanti County with our participants have trended upward during the pandemic, whereas the state, unfortunately, has trended downward,” she said.

Board Chair Susan Morris said Isanti County’s WIC program was “already the best.”

“Well, because it’s the support of the staff, the work you guys do,” she remarked. “Honestly, that’s what makes the difference. So thank you.”

In the past two to three months, WIC has started seeing more people in person again, Sievert said.

“Interestingly, out of the eight-county WIC region that we’re a part of, we’re the only county that’s been seeing people in person,” she said. “A lot of the staff in those counties are still working from home as of May, at least when I was at the regional meeting for coordinators.

“But so it’s great to see some of our people in person again, start collecting some of that data so we can give more focused support and help to them. So that’s great,” she continued.

On the management evaluation side of WIC, Sievert said the program has met all of the federal regulations standards.

“I’m happy to report that we had no unmet standards this time,” she said. “So overall, my Isanti County WIC program is going really well. We have a talented and dedicated staff, and they’re really committed to providing high-quality services. And so I think you can feel confident about that.”

Penny Messer, director and division leader of Isanti County Health and Human Services, said with the combination of Family Services and Public Health, her department felt it was necessary to develop a new framework for action.

“We felt it was necessary to develop our own mission and value statement to kind of guide our work because that’s very, very important just to have that central focus,” Messer said.

“Our mission statement for Isanti County Health and Human Services Division is now empowering residents to make healthy and safe choices to strengthen the well-being of our community,” she continued. “Our values: communication, we provide timely and open communication; diversity, we embrace a culture of inclusivity; integrity, we are honest and ethical, treating all with dignity and respect; service, we provide high-quality, person-centered services to individuals and families; and last, teamwork, we call on the unique skills and creativity of our staff by building relationships of trust and appreciation, while holding ourselves accountable to our mission.”

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