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Dietitian serves people on WIC and people with diabetes

Danielle Boward applies her skills as dietitian.


By Kaye Hult

Since January 2022, Danielle Boward, nutrition services program manager at Panhandle Health District (PHD), has exercised her skills as a dietitian to advance nutrition services through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and through Diabetes Education Services.

As the WIC coordinator in North Idaho, she and her WIC team serve low-income and uninsured parents or caregivers of children under five, women who are pregnant, just had a baby or are breastfeeding a baby.

"We want to make sure family members who are pregnant, breastfeeding or care for young children and may be nutritionally at risk know they are welcome," she said.

Danielle and her team work with anyone at risk of or living with diabetes through the PHD Diabetes Education Services.

She wants clergy and service providers to be aware these services are available to the people in their communities and clientele.

WIC started in 1974 as a federal program to serve low-income families, she said, listing its four emphases.

1) Supplemental food: the USDA provides fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy, whole grains, beans and baby food.

2) Nutrition education: Clients learn to use food in healthy ways, receiving shopping tips, child-friendly recipes and information customized for their needs.

3) Breastfeeding support: WIC provides classes in breastfeeding, and access to peer counseling, pumps and supplies.

4) Care beyond WIC: When clients need services WIC cannot provide, staff refer them to other programs.

"Once clients are certified as being at nutritional risk," Danielle said, "they can meet at no charge with dietitians, peer counselors and lactation consultants four or more times a year. These services supplement their OB-GYN visits.

"WIC may be the only touch point for health for some clients," she said. "We're helpful and respect clients' boundaries. We provide education and advice to promote health.

"We are a public health organization that provides federal and state grant resources to North Idaho communities," she said.

Danielle supports staff in five locations with Panhandle Health and WIC offices: In addition to the main office at Hayden, there are offices in St. Maries, Sandpoint, Kellogg and Bonners Ferry.

Along with being a registered dietitian, Danielle is a certified diabetes educator and certified life coach. With Diabetes Education Services of Panhandle Health, she oversees two programs that use trained coaches who assist with behavior change and goal setting.

The program's brochure says one in three people lives with prediabetes. One in 10 people lives with Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes. Blood tests help people know which program is best for them.

The year-long diabetes prevention program is designed by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and targets behavior and lifestyle changes for people with prediabetes to prevent Type 2 diabetes from developing.

 "Our goal is for a certified life coach to facilitate interaction and encourage support within a group of peers with prediabetes who meet to discuss behavior change topics, such as meal management, exercise, problem solving and stress management," Danielle said.

In the diabetes management program, clients may have one-on-one counseling or join a group class taught by a dietitian.

"Group classes for those newly diagnosed help them learn about diabetes through discussions and learning activities, techniques that engage them in active learning," Danielle explained.

"We recently finished a diabetes class in Bonners Ferry covering meal management, physical activity and glucose levels," she said, noting that many North Idaho communities lack access to diabetes education.

Neither diabetes program is income dependent, although most participants use insurance or self-pay options. If a person qualifies for a program but can't afford it, financial assistance options are available at the Panhandle Health District, she said.

The nutrition services programs Danielle manages serve a variety of populations. Some cannot afford housing. They may live on couches in others' homes or in their cars. WIC may be their only nutrition source in hard times.

"Mothers who need dental care often struggle to eat well," she said. "We refer them to free dental programs for their children and themselves.

"We've referred mothers without homes to shelters and other support organizations that can help with rent or utilities," she said.

Danielle oversees operations, state grants and spending funds for these programs. She also assists with client interactions and daily tasks in the five locations.

An average day includes staff meetings, community outreach, travel to PHD and WIC offices, and meeting with WIC and diabetes clients.

Danielle's desire to make an impact by working in health care began with her experiences as a child. Her family moved to various states and countries.

Her parents served with a disaster relief organization in Peru to create jobs and provide relief in disasters. Living in Peru, she experienced many cultures.

From her mother, a nurse, Danielle developed an interest in health care.

At Walla Walla College, she earned a health sciences degree in 1997 and became a certified health education specialist.

In 1999 at the University of Washington in Seattle, she earned a master's degree in nutrition sciences after participating in a coordinated dietetic internship. After graduation, she became a registered dietitian.

Since then, she has worked in several hospital systems in Washington and California.

In 2021, she moved to Idaho and began to work for the Emily Program in Spokane, counseling people with eating disorders to eat healthily, responsibly and guilt free. She came from there to the Panhandle Health District.

"As I set goals each day, I ask: How can I reach more people with these programs? How can we reach enough people who want to participate so our programs can keep happening? If we don't have people enroll, grants don't continue to roll in. Public health depends heavily upon grant funding.

"As I support the staff in these programs," she said, "maintaining a positive mindset is important to me. I promote good communication and offer encouragement.

"How can I support PHD and encourage the staff here to stay passionate? They work here for the right reasons, prioritizing being able to make a difference."

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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October 2023