National WIC Association visits Thames Valley Council for Community Action (TVCCA)

by: Jessica Seyfried, TVCCA Community Health Coordinator

New London County Healthy Families Partnership (NLCHFP) had their site visit with Anna-Maria Roache of ACOG on July 13th.  It was a beautiful day to show Anna-Maria around our wonderfully diverse county.  Anna-Maria stayed on Southeast CT’s shoreline where we hope she experienced the natural beauty of the coast before heading to our more industrial old mill towns and cities.  We started off the day by touring our recently renovated New London WIC office, and then set off north, passed the Navy base and housing on our way to United Community & Family Services (UCFS) in Norwich.  At UCFS we received a tour of their state of the art, full service Federally Qualified Health Center.  The tour highlighted the facility’s inclusive medical model which offers primary care, gynecology, pediatrics, dental, behavioral health, laboratory testing, and pharmacy, all under one roof.  

Williams Park, future site of TVCCA Farmers Market

Williams Park, future site of TVCCA Farmers Market

TVCCA Leadership Team and their partner, Cindy Barry

TVCCA Leadership Team and their partner, Cindy Barry

After passing through Norwich and Montville, our next stop was the Gemma Moran Food Center.  As one of Connecticut’s three food banks, this center receives local food donations as well as support from the state food bank based on local poverty levels.  We were all amazed by the smooth and efficient way the Food Center is run.  Our tour guide, United Way’s Vice President of Community Impact Dina Sears-Graves, was a wealth of information.  Dina described their process and defined the current best practices they have established as well as future plans.  It was also a wonderful opportunity to pick her brain about food insecurity in the county. We explored opportunities for future impact as well. 

Next we met with our ACHIEVE Coalition’s coordinator, Cindy Barry, in New London at William’s Park, the site of a weekly Farmer’s Market she coordinates through her latest FDA grant.  Ledge Light Health District (where Cindy is employed) started the ACHIEVE coalition over five years ago and has since accomplished many healthy living goals in our county.  To name a few, the coalition helped the city of New London achieve a bike lane, institute a no-smoking ordinance in the city’s parks, and supported the creation of new community and school gardens.  Our NLCHF coalition is a subgroup of this larger coalition, working specifically on preventing chronic disease by supporting increased rates of initiation and duration of breastfeeding, addressing food insecurity, and improving prenatal care and birth outcomes.

Lunch at Café NV was both delicious and educational. Many of our county’s key stakeholders – TVCCA’s COO MaryLou Underwood, Deborah Buxton-Morris and Leah Hendricks from the VNA, and Patrick Murphy, Community Health Center’s nurse manager, shared their regional health concerns with Anna-Maria.

After lunch we convened the all-star breastfeeding coalition subgroup to discuss the strategy for approaching employers in support of our mission to increase the number of local businesses designated as Breastfeeding Friendly Workplaces.  We had a rich discussion of the many factors to consider from the HR and legal perspectives, the woman’s viewpoint, and keeping the benefits to the employer (productivity, employee loyalty, etc) in the forefront of the conversation.  
Overall, it was a great time to reflect on all we have accomplished so far. We now look forward to the future relationships we will create and the healthy outcomes we will support going forward. Thanks to Anna-Maria for making the trip to New London County, Connecticut!