MFHS Celebrates National Nutrition Month
The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program is the nation’s premier public health nutrition program and a sound investment in insuring the health of our children. Maternal and Family Health Services administers the WIC Nutrition Program in Northeast Pennsylvania, serving more than 57,000 people each month at WIC Nutrition Centers in 16 counties.
During National Nutrition Month, MFHS is raising awareness about the public health value of the WIC Program, the compelling evidence of its success in ensuring healthy outcomes, and the strong public support for the program.
WIC is a preventative public health nutrition program designed to influence lifetime nutrition and health behaviors in a targeted, high-risk population. WIC provides nutrition and breastfeeding education, nutritious foods, and improv
ed health care access to low-income pregnant women and children under age 5 with, or at risk of developing, nutrition-related health problems.
Established to promote good nutrition for children and expectant mothers, WIC has earned the reputation of being one of the most successful, cost-effective, federally-funded nutrition programs in the United States. More than half (53%) of all children born in the United States are served by the WIC Program.
The WIC food package, which was updated in 2009 to include a greater variety of healthy choices, has a positive impact on how children eat. A recent study by Public Health Solutions in New York showed that following the improvements with the food package, children participating in WIC are more likely to have increased consumption of healthy foods, including low / non-fat milk, and infants enrolled in WIC are more likely to be breastfed. In a study completed for the Mid-Atlantic WIC Assessment Project showed that the majority of participants (nearly three-quarters) interviewed report that they have made changes in eating practices and physical activity since being a part of WIC. Improvements include: increased physical activity, increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat milk, and decreased consumption of soda and fast food.
Participation in WIC improves nutrition, resulting in overall healthier pregnancies, healthier birth outcomes, and better growth and development of young children. WIC helps ensure normal physical growth for infants and children, and has been shown to improve cognitive development, reduce levels of anemia, improve access to regular health care and social services, improve diets and household health behaviors, and improve breastfeeding rates. WIC children arrive at school with a healthy foundation and ready to learn.
The scientifically based WIC food package reinforces the nutrition education provided by WIC nutritionists, and provides supplemental foods with essential nutrients. WIC approved foods include whole grains, low-fat dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, soy and tofu, eggs, baby food, tuna, salmon, sardines, and mackerel, canned and dry beans, peanut butter, juice, and iron-fortified infant formula.
WIC promotes breastfeeding as the most perfect infant food and provides support for new mothers who choose to breastfeed. The MFHS WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program works to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates for WIC participants. Peer counselors provide new mothers with support and encouragement during the early post-partum period and help moms make the transition back to work or school.
With all the public health benefits of the WIC Nutrition Program, it should not come as a surprise that WIC is highly regarded among American voters. A recent national bipartisan poll conducted by the Mellman Group and American Viewpoint regarding voter attitudes toward the WIC Program showed that showed that Americans – across party lines – strongly support WIC, and not only do voters oppose cuts to WIC, they want the government to invest more money in programs like WIC. When ranked by favorability, WIC is among the most popular government programs including programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and National Defense. Opposition to cutting WIC is strong across party lines: Democrats (80%), Independents (55%), and Republicans (45%). Instead of cuts, a majority of voters want the federal government to invest more money in programs like WIC that provide nutrition and healthcare to pregnant women and children. Opposition to cutting WIC remains strong even after voters hear detailed arguments for and against such spending reductions.
The WIC Program is a successful program that provides significant returns on investment through improved birth outcomes, healthier infant and young child development, and impressive healthcare savings. Helping young children get a healthy start through quality nutrition is especially important during the challenging economic environment so many America’s families are facing.‖