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Logo of pubhealthrepPublic Health Reports
Public Health Rep. 1995 Jan-Feb; 110(1): 27–34.
PMCID: PMC1382070

Savings achieved by giving WIC benefits to women prenatally.


The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition and health education, and social services referral to pregnant, breastfeeding, and post-partum women, and their infants and young children who are both low-income and at nutritional risk. A number of statistically controlled evaluations that compared prenatal women who received WIC services with demographically similar women who did not receive WIC services have found WIC enrollment associated with decreased levels of low birth weight among enrolled women's infants. Several also have found lower overall maternal and infant hospital costs among women who had received prenatal WIC services compared with similar women who did not receive prenatal WIC services. A meta-analysis of the studies shows that providing WIC benefits to pregnant women is estimated to reduce low birth weight rates 25 percent and reduce very low birth weight births by 44 percent. Using these data to estimate costs, prenatal WIC enrollment is estimated to have reduced first year medical costs for U.S. infants by $1.19 billion in 1992. Savings from a reduction in estimated Medicaid expenditures in the first year post-partum more than offset the cost of the Federal prenatal WIC Program. Even using more conservative assumptions, providing prenatal WIC benefits was cost-beneficial. Because of the estimated program cost-savings, the U.S. General Accounting Office has recommended that all pregnant women at or below 185 percent of Federal poverty level be eligible for the program.

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Selected References

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