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19 December 2013

Decrease in Childhood Obesity Among WIC Participants

Kathleen Pitcher Tobey

A recent USDA report shows a decline in childhood obesity among WIC participants – what can we learn from these results?

In early December, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) issued a report that outlined demographic information and health conditions for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) participants. The findings reflect earlier presumptions that recent changes to WIC food packages are helping children and families eat more nutritious foods and beverages and, as a result, reducing the incidence of childhood obesity among this population. 
The USDA study shows the following statistics for WIC children:
  • In 2012, 15.3 percent of 1 year-olds were considered overweight compared to 16.8 percent in 2008
  • For children ages 2-4, 14.0 percent were overweight in 2012 compared with 14.7 percent in 2008,
According to The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this federal program reaches nearly half the infants born in the United States and the findings have broader implications for millions of children nationwide.   In 2009, WIC food packages were revised to meet new recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).  The changes included the inclusion of whole grain cereals and bread; infant food fruit, vegetables and meat; and cash-value vouchers for fruits and vegetables in fresh, frozen or canned form.  WIC also eliminated juice from the infant packages.
The USDA’s recent findings illustrate the positive impact of nutritious foods on children’s obesity rates. These important efforts, combined with other national initiatives such as the Let’s Move campaign, are slowly reversing childhood obesity trends. To learn more about the USDA’s WIC program, please visit them here.