Why WIC is important!

March 18th, 2011 by mike Leave a reply »

WIC saves lives and improves the health of nutritionally at-risk women, infants and children. The results of studies conducted by FNS and other nongovernment entities prove that WIC is one of the nation’s most successful and cost-effective nutrition intervention programs.

Since its beginning in 1974, the WIC Program has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful Federally-funded nutrition programs in the United States. Collective findings of studies, reviews and reports demonstrate that the WIC Program is cost effective in protecting or improving the health/nutritional status of low-income women, infants and children.

The following highlights some of the findings (pertinent references are provided).

Improved Birth Outcomes and Savings in Health Care Costs

  • longer pregnancies;
  • fewer premature births;
  • lower incidence of moderately low and very low birth weight infants;
  • fewer infant deaths;
  • a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care; and
  • savings in health care costs from $1.77 to $3.13 within the first 60 days after birth.

Improved Diet and Diet-Related Outcomes

  • higher mean intakes of iron, vitamin C, thiamin, niacin and vitamin B6, without an increase in food energy intake, indicating an increase in the nutrient density of the diet;
  • positive effects on the intakes of ten nutrients without an adverse effect on fat or cholesterol;
  • more effective than other cash income or food stamps at improving preschoolers’ intake of key nutrients; and
  • decline in the rate of iron deficiency anemia from 7.8 percent in 1975 to 2.9 percent in 1985 which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed to both a general improvement in iron nutrition and participation in WIC and other public nutrition programs.

Improved Infant Feeding Practices

  • WIC breastfeeding policy and program activites were strengthened in the early 1990′s;
  • Between 1996 and 2001, the percentage of WIC mothers breastfeeding in the hospital increased by almost 25 percent, from 46.6 to 58.2 percent;
  • The percentage of WIC infants breastfeeding at six months of age increased by 61.2 percent, from 12.9 to 20.8 percent; and,
  • For those infants who are fed infant formula, 90 percent received iron-fortified formula, which is recommended for nearly all nonbreastfed infants for the first year of life.

Immunization Rates and RegularImproved Cognitive Development

  • improve vocabulary scores for children of mothers who participated in WIC during pregnancy; and
  • significantly improve memory for numbers for children enrolled in WIC after the first year of life.

Improved Preconception Nutritional Status

  • women enrolled in WIC both during pregnancy and postpartum periods delivered infants with higher mean birth weights in a subsequent pregnancy than women who received WIC prenatally only; and,
  • the women who received postpartum benefits had higher hemoglobin levels and lower risk of maternal obesity at the onset of the subsequent pregnancy.

Other Improved Outcomes

  • increase the likelihood of children having a regular provider of medical care; and,
  • improve growth rates.


  • WIC reduces fetal deaths and infant mortality.
  • WIC reduces low birth weight rates and increases the duration of pregnancy.
  • WIC improves the growth of nutritionally at-risk infants and children.
  • WIC decreases the incidence of iron deficiency anemia in children.
  • WIC improves the dietary intake of pregnant and postpartum women and improves weight gain in pregnant women.
  • Pregnant women participating in WIC receive prenatal care earlier.
  • Children enrolled in WIC are more likely to have a regular source of medical care and have more up to date immunizations.
  • WIC helps get children ready to start school: children who receive WIC benefits demonstrate improved intellectual development.
  • WIC significantly improves children’s diets.

WIC participation has also been shown to:
Preconception nutritional status is an important determinant of birth outcome. A previous pregnancy can cause nutritional depletion of the postpartum woman, particularly those with high parity and short interpregnancy intervals. One study found:
Cognitive development influences school achievement and behavior. Participation in the WIC Program has been shown to: Source of Medical Care
A regular schedule of immunizations is recommended for children from birth to 2 years of age, which coincides with the period in which many low-income children participate in WIC. Studies have found significantly improved rates of childhood immunization and of having a regular source of medical care associated with WIC participation.
WIC promotes breastfeeding as the optimal method of infant feeding. Studies show:
Studies have found WIC to have a positive effect on children’s diet and diet-related outcomes such as:
Research has shown that the WIC Program has been playing an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs. A series of reports published by USDA based on linked 1988 WIC and Medicaid data on over 100,000 births found that every dollar spent on prenatal WIC participation for low-income Medicaid women in five states resulted in: 


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