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1.  Savings achieved by giving WIC benefits to women prenatally. 
Public Health Reports  1995;110(1):27-34.
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.
PMCID: PMC1382070  PMID: 7838940
2.  WIC in Your Neighborhood: New Evidence on the Impacts of Geographic Access to Clinics 
Journal of public economics  2013;102:51-69.
A large body of evidence indicates that conditions in-utero and health at birth matter for individuals’ long-run outcomes, suggesting potential value in programs aimed at pregnant women and young children. This paper uses a novel identification strategy and data from birth and administrative records over 2005–2009 to provide causal estimates of the effects of geographic access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). My empirical approach uses within-ZIP-code variation in WIC clinic presence together with maternal fixed effects, and accounts for the potential endogeneity of mobility, gestational-age bias, and measurement error in gestation. I find that access to WIC increases food benefit take-up, pregnancy weight gain, birth weight, and the probability of breastfeeding initiation at the time of hospital discharge. The estimated effects are strongest for mothers with a high school education or less, who are most likely eligible for WIC services.
PMCID: PMC3772681  PMID: 24043906
WIC; health at birth; pregnancy; public programs; low-income women and children
3.  A community based prevention of weight gain intervention (Mothers In Motion) among young low-income overweight and obese mothers: design and rationale 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:280.
Over 45% of American women 20–39 years old are at risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other health conditions because they are overweight or obese. The prevalence of overweight and obesity is disproportionately high among low-income women. This paper describes the study design and rationale of a community based intervention (Mothers In Motion, MIM) aimed to prevent weight gain among low-income overweight and obese mothers18-39 years old by promoting stress management, healthy eating, and physical activity.
Peer recruiters approach participants from 5 Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in Michigan. The MIM delivers theory-based, culturally-sensitive intervention messages via a combination of DVDs and peer support group teleconferences (PSGTs). The DVD features African American and white overweight and obese WIC mothers who participated in a healthy lifestyle intervention patterned after MIM. The PSGTs are led by paraprofessionals from Michigan State University Extension and WIC providers in Michigan who are trained in motivational interviewing and group facilitation skills. Participants are randomly assigned to an intervention (n = 350) or comparison group (n = 175). The intervention group receives a 16-week intervention on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Participants are asked to watch 10 MIM DVD chapters at home and join 10 PSGT sessions by phone. The comparison group receives printed educational materials. The primary outcome is body weight. Secondary outcomes include dietary fat, fruit, and vegetable intake; physical activity; stress, and affect. Mediators are self-efficacy, emotional coping response, social support, and autonomous motivation. Telephone interviews and in-person data collection at WIC offices occur at 3 time points: baseline, immediately, and 3 months after the 16-week intervention.
If MIM shows effectiveness, it could have a favorable impact on public health and community programs. The DVDs and PSGTs will be disseminated in WIC, Extension, clinical practice that promote healthy lifestyles for similar target audiences to make a broad contribution to the prevention of weight gain in low-income mothers. Also, our methodology can be adapted by researchers and community stakeholders to help other low-income populations prevent weight gain.
Trial registration
Clinical Trials Number: NCT01839708.
PMCID: PMC3987655  PMID: 24666633
Obesity prevention; Stress management; Healthy eating; Physical activity; Low-income women
4.  Socioeconomic Gradients and Low Birth-Weight: Empirical and Policy Considerations 
Health Services Research  2003;38(6 Pt 2):1819-1842.
To examine whether socioeconomic status (SES) gradients emerge in health outcomes as early as birth and to examine the magnitude, potential sources, and explanations of any observed SES gradients.
Data Sources
The National Maternal and Infant Health Survey conducted in 1988.
Study Design
A multinomial logistic regression of trichotomized birth-weight categories was conducted for normal birth-weight (2,500–5,500 grams), low birth-weight (LBWT; <2,500 grams), and heavy birth-weight (>5,500 grams). Key variables included income, education, occupational grade, state-level income inequality, and length of participation in Women-Infants-Children (WIC) for pregnant mothers.
Principal Findings
A socioeconomic gradient for low birth-weight was discovered for an adjusted household income measure, net of all covariates in the unrestricted models. A gross effect of maternal education was explained by maternal smoking behaviors, while no effect of occupational grade was observed, net of household income. There were no significant state-level income inequality effects (Gini coefficient) for any of the models. In addition, participation in WIC was discovered to substantially flatten income gradients for short-term participants and virtually eliminate an income gradient among long-term participants.
Although a materialist explanation for early-life SES gradients seems the most plausible (vis-à-vis psychosocial and occupational explanations), more research is needed to discover potential interventions. In addition, the notion of a monotonic gradient in which income is salutary across the full range of the distribution is challenged by these data such that income may cease to be beneficial after a given threshold. Finally, the success of WIC participation in flattening SES gradients argues for either: (a) the experimental efficacy of WIC, or (b) the biasing selection characteristics of WIC participants; either conclusion suggests that interventions or characteristics of participants deserves further study as a potential remedy for socioeconomic disparities in early-life health outcomes such as LBWT.
PMCID: PMC1360975  PMID: 14727799
Socioeconomic status gradients; low birth-weight
5.  Insights in Public Health 
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is a proven, cost-effective investment in strengthening families. As part of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) 15 federal nutrition assistance programs for the past 40 years, WIC has grown to be the nation's leading public health nutrition program. WIC serves as an important first access point to health care and social service systems for many limited resource families, serving approximately half the births in the nation as well as locally. By providing nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion and foods in addition to referrals, WIC plays a crucial role in promoting lifetime health for women, infants and children. WIC helps achieve national public health goals such as reducing premature births and infant mortality, increasing breastfeeding, and reducing maternal and childhood overweight. Though individuals and families can self-refer into WIC, physicians and allied health professionals have the opportunity and are encouraged to promote awareness of WIC and refer families in their care.
PMCID: PMC4174695  PMID: 25285258
6.  WIC program participation--a marketing approach. 
Public Health Reports  1991;106(5):547-556.
Recent evaluation studies have described the benefits accruing to low-income women and children who participate in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). However, participation is not uniform among all groups of eligible persons. This study examines the geographic variation in WIC participation rates of eligible pregnant women in Rhode Island to determine whether the program is effective in reaching the neediest segments of the population. Eight groups of small geographic areas in Rhode Island (census tracts) were formed on the basis of need for maternal and child health services, as determined from a statistical method employing factor and cluster analysis of existing health and sociodemographic data. Among these eight groups, participation rates in WIC during 1983-84 ranged from 46 percent to more than 100 percent of estimated eligible pregnant women. The rates were positively correlated with measures of need, strongly (r = 0.92) with an index of maternal risk, and less strongly (r = 0.79) with an index of birth outcomes. The results of this study have enabled the Rhode Island WIC Program to direct its outreach efforts more specifically to geographic areas where the need for the program's assistance is greatest. The procedures described in this report comprise a technique that can be generally applied to measure program effectiveness in marketing and outreach where relevant data are available by small geographic areas. The data requirements are (a) population-based estimates of program need and (b) program utilization measures. If these data can be aggregated to a common set of small geographic areas, the use of marketing analysis techniques becomes possible, and program benefits in the area of outreach and recruitment can be realized.
PMCID: PMC1580300  PMID: 1910189
7.  Referrals of participants in an urban WIC program to health and welfare services. 
Public Health Reports  1992;107(2):173-178.
The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides supplemental food, nutrition education, and referrals to available health and welfare services. Recipients are income-eligible pregnant and postpartum women, their infants, and their children who are younger than 5 years of age. Although studies have documented the nutritional benefits of the program, the extent to which WIC nutritionists help eligible women to obtain available health and welfare services, and the degree to which this referral activity promotes health, is largely unknown. The researchers examined the referral activity at one urban WIC clinic, but did not evaluate the outcomes. Of 1,850 persons seen, there were 762 referrals by WIC nutritionists for 597 persons at the Lawrence, MA, clinic during a 2-month period. Of the 597 persons, 494 (83 percent) were WIC participants and 103 (17 percent) were nonparticipants. The rate of referrals for WIC participants was 27 percent. Multiple referrals were common, with 127 people receiving more than one referral. WIC nutritionists at this site offered a variety of referrals to their clients. The majority of referrals (61.7 percent) were for supplemented food. Nonnutrition-related referrals were to medical and dental services (20.5 percent), developmental and educational services (12.5 percent), and social services (5.4 percent). Nonnutrition-related referrals for women included referrals for family planning, substance abuse, job training, teenaged parenting, and high school equivalency programs. Infants and children were referred for dental care, growth failure, the Head Start Program, kindergarten enrollment, early intervention, and protective services.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
PMCID: PMC1403627  PMID: 1561299
8.  Validation of maternally reported birth weights among 46,637 Tennessee WIC program participants. 
Public Health Reports  1988;103(2):143-147.
To assess the accuracy of maternally reported birth weights, we compared birth weights reported by mothers in the Tennessee Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Feeding Program (WIC) from 1975 to 1984 with the birth weights recorded on the corresponding Tennessee birth certificate file. Differences in birth weights between these two sources were compared for the total group and were also stratified by sociodemographic and medical variables that might influence the accuracy of birth weight recall. An accurate birth weight was defined as one reported within 1 ounce of the birth certificate birth weight. We also calculated the proportion of birth weights that would be incorrectly classified as low or normal by maternal reporting. A total of 72,245 WIC records were matched with their corresponding birth certificates. Of these, 46,637 had WIC birth weights recorded within the specified birth weight range. Eighty-nine percent of birth weights were reported within 1 ounce of birth certificate birth weights. Lower accuracy of birth weight reporting was associated with the infant's low birth weight, preterm delivery, and low Apgar scores, and with the mother's grand multiparity, less than a high school education, black race, single marital status, and young age. Only 1.1 percent of birth weights would have been incorrectly classified into low or normal birth weight categories based on maternal reporting. Overall, our results suggest that maternally reported birth weights are sufficiently accurate for research and programmatic purposes when birth certificate information is not readily available.
PMCID: PMC1477960  PMID: 3128829
9.  Concentration of Tobacco Advertisements at SNAP and WIC Stores, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2012 
Tobacco advertising is widespread in urban areas with racial/ethnic minority and low-income households that participate in nutrition assistance programs. Tobacco sales and advertising are linked to smoking behavior, which may complicate matters for low-income families struggling with disparate health risks relating to nutrition and chronic disease. We investigated the relationship between the amount and type of tobacco advertisements on tobacco outlets and the outlet type and location.
By using field visits and online images, we inspected all licensed tobacco retail outlets in Philadelphia (N = 4,639). Point pattern analyses were used to identify significant clustering of tobacco outlets and outlets with exterior tobacco advertisements. Logistic regression was used to analyze the relationship between the outlet’s acceptance of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the presence of tobacco advertisements.
Tobacco outlets with exterior tobacco advertisements were significantly clustered in several high-poverty areas. Controlling for racial/ethnic and income composition and land use, SNAP and WIC vendors were significantly more likely to have exterior (SNAP odds ratio [OR], 2.11; WIC OR, 1.59) and interior (SNAP OR, 3.43; WIC OR, 1.69) tobacco advertisements than other types of tobacco outlets.
Tobacco advertising is widespread at retail outlets, particularly in low-income and racial/ethnic minority neighborhoods. Policy makers may be able to mitigate the effects of this disparate exposure through tobacco retail licensing, local sign control rules, and SNAP and WIC authorization.
PMCID: PMC4318686  PMID: 25654220
10.  Factors influencing early prenatal enrollment in the WIC program. 
Public Health Reports  1989;104(3):301-306.
Women's access to prenatal nutrition services was explored using a nationally representative sample of pregnant participants in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in 1984. The probability was examined of the participant entering the program during her first trimester, rather than the second or third trimester. Other research has suggested that length of participation in the program during pregnancy is associated with increased birth weight. The data were adjusted for various personal and local operational factors, such as prior WIC participation, race, age, income, household size, WIC priority level, availability of prenatal or other health services, targeted outreach policies, years of local operation, and local agency size. Previous participation in the WIC Program was the only factor significantly associated with early enrollment (adjusted odds ratio 2.1). Race was marginally significant. Neither the presence of local policies of outreach targeted to pregnant women, nor co-location of WIC services with prenatal or other health services, showed significant effects on early enrollment.
PMCID: PMC1579914  PMID: 2498982
11.  Using linked program and birth records to evaluate coverage and targeting in Tennessee's WIC program. 
Public Health Reports  1991;106(2):176-181.
Public health nutrition programs are intended to serve low-income families who are at greater nutritional risk than the general population. Not all persons who are program-eligible are at equal risk, however. It would be desirable to evaluate a program's ability to enroll persons from higher risk backgrounds in the population (coverage) and, conversely, the extent to which those enrolled in this program are at higher risk (targeting). A method for the evaluation of coverage and targeting was developed using data from the Tennessee Women, Infants, and Children Special Supplemental Food Program (WIC) linked with birth certificates. The linked computer file was created by matching the name and date of birth in both record files. The birth records were the common source of information used to characterize the risk background for both the WIC and non-WIC participants. Maternal sociodemographic information on the birth records was used to define the health risk background of each child. The coverage and targeting of "at-risk" children were computed and compared for 50 counties or county-aggregates in Tennessee. Considerable variation in the coverage and targeting rates of at-risk children was observed among Tennessee counties, although the counties within each WIC administrative region tended to have similar coverage and targeting patterns. Using the existing data in linked program and vital records provides a direct evaluation of a program. Coverage and targeting evaluation can be used to detect underserved populations within small geographic areas.
PMCID: PMC1580230  PMID: 1902310
12.  Increasing Access to Farmers Markets for Beneficiaries of Nutrition Assistance: Evaluation of the Farmers Market Access Project 
Increased acceptance of nutrition benefits at farmers markets could improve access to nutritious foods for low-income shoppers. The objective of this study was to evaluate a pilot project to increase participation by farmers markets and their vendors in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
The intervention targeted 9 markets in lower-income regions of King County, Washington. Markets and vendors were offered subsidized electronic benefits transfer (EBT) terminals for processing SNAP, and vendors could apply to accept WIC cash value vouchers. WIC staff received information on using SNAP and vouchers at farmers markets. We used mixed methods post-implementation to measure participation, describe factors in acceptance of benefits, and assess information needs for WIC staff to conduct effective outreach.
Of approximately 88 WIC-eligible vendors, 38 agreed to accept vouchers. Ten of 125 vendors installed an EBT terminal, and 6 markets installed a central market terminal. The number of market stalls accepting SNAP increased from 80 to 143, an increase of 79%. Participating vendors wanted to provide access to SNAP and WIC shoppers, although redemption rates were low. Some WIC staff members were unfamiliar with markets, which hindered outreach.
Vendors and markets value low-income shoppers and, when offered support, will take on some inconvenience to serve them. To improve participation and sustainability, we recommend ongoing subsidies and streamlined procedures better suited to meet markets’ capabilities. Low EBT redemption rates at farmers markets suggest a need for more outreach to low-income shoppers and relationship building with WIC staff.
PMCID: PMC3804120  PMID: 24135392
13.  Effects of Reduced Juice Allowances in Food Packages for the Women, Infants, and Children Program 
Pediatrics  2013;131(5):919-927.
In 2009, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) implemented revisions to the composition and quantities of WIC food packages. Juice allowances were reduced by approximately half. This report describes changes in purchases of 100% juice and other beverages among WIC participants after the WIC revisions.
Scanner data from a New England supermarket chain were used to assess juice and other beverage purchases among 2137 WIC-participating households during a 2-year period (N = 36 051 household-months). Purchased beverage amounts were compared before (January–September 2009) and after (January–September 2010) implementation of the revised WIC packages. Generalized estimating equation models were used.
Before the revisions, WIC juice accounted for two-thirds of purchased juice volume among WIC households. After implementation of the revisions, WIC juice purchases were reduced on par with allowance changes (43.5% of juice volume, 95% confidence interval [CI] 41.9%–45.1%). This reduction was only partly compensated for by an increase of 13.6% (8.4%–19.0%) in juice purchases using personal and other non-WIC funds. In total, juice purchases declined by 23.5% (21.4%–25.4%) from an adjusted monthly total of 238 oz to 182 oz per household. WIC households increased purchases of fruit drinks by 20.9% (14.9%–27.3%) and other noncarbonated beverages by 21.3% (12.1%–31.2%) but purchased 12.1% (8.1%–15.0%) less soft drinks.
After the WIC revisions, total purchases of 100% juice among WIC households declined by about a quarter, with little compensation occurring from non-WIC funds for juice and other beverages. The public health impact of the shift in beverage purchase patterns could be significant.
PMCID: PMC4074658  PMID: 23629613
food assistance; WIC; juice; food policy
14.  Evaluating the Initial Impact of the Revised Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Food Packages on Dietary Intake and Home Food Availability in African American and Hispanic Families 
Public health nutrition  2013;17(1):83-93.
The present study assessed the impact of the 2009 food packages mandated by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) on dietary intake and home food availability in low-income African American and Hispanic parent/child dyads.
A natural experiment was conducted to assess if the revised WIC food package altered dietary intake, home food availability, weight, and various lifestyle measures immediately (6 months) following policy implementation.
12 WIC clinics in Chicago, USA.
273, 2–3 year old Hispanic and African American children enrolled in WIC and their mothers
Six months after the WIC food package revisions were implemented, we observed modest changes in dietary intake. Fruit consumption increased among Hispanic mothers (mean=0.33 servings/d, p=.04), and low-fat dairy intake increased among Hispanic mothers (0.21 servings/d, p=.02), Hispanic children (0.34 servings/d, p<.001), and African American children (0.24 servings/d, p=.02). Home food availability of low fat dairy and whole grains also increased. Dietary changes, however, varied by racial/ethnic group. Changes in home food availability were not significantly correlated with changes in diet.
The WIC food package revisions are one of the first efforts to modify the nutrition guidelines that govern foods provided in a federal food and nutrition assistance program. It will be important to examine the longer term impact of these changes on dietary intake and weight status.
PMCID: PMC3858404  PMID: 23544992
dietary behaviors; minority groups; food assistance; nutrition policy; obesity
15.  Feasibility of Increasing Childhood Outdoor Play and Decreasing Television Viewing Through a Family-Based Intervention in WIC, New York State, 2007-2008 
Preventing Chronic Disease  2011;8(3):A54.
Active Families is a program developed to increase outdoor play and decrease television viewing among preschool-aged children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Our objective was to assess its feasibility and efficacy.
We implemented Active Families in a large WIC clinic in New York State for 1 year. To this end, we incorporated into WIC nutrition counseling sessions a community resource guide with maps showing recreational venues. Outcome measures were children's television viewing and time playing outdoors and parents' behaviors (television viewing, physical activity), self-efficacy to influence children's behaviors, and parenting practices specific to television viewing. We used a nonpaired pretest and posttest design to evaluate the intervention, drawing on comparison data from 3 matched WIC agencies.
Compared with the children at baseline, the children at follow-up were more likely to watch television less than 2 hours per day and play outdoors for at least 60 minutes per day. Additionally, parents reported higher self-efficacy to limit children's television viewing and were more likely to meet physical activity recommendations and watch television less than 2 hours per day.
Results suggest that it is feasible to foster increased outdoor play and reduced television viewing among WIC-enrolled children by incorporating a community resource guide into WIC nutrition counseling sessions. Future research should test the intervention with a stronger evaluation design in multiple settings, with more diverse WIC populations, and by using more objective outcome measures of child behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3103559  PMID: 21477494
16.  Use of Food Labels, Awareness of Nutritional Programs and Participation in the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2005-6) 
Maternal & child nutrition  2011;9(3):299-308.
Use of nutritional labels in choosing food is associated with healthier eating habits including lower fat intake. Current public health efforts have focused on the revamping of nutritional labels to make them easier to read and use for the consumer.
To assess the frequency of use of nutritional labels and awareness of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutritional programs by women eligible and participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as surveyed in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-6 .
Many low-income women do not regularly use the nutrition facts panel information on the food label and less than half had heard of the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans (38.9%). In multivariate logistic regression, we found that WIC participation was associated with reduced use of the nutrition facts panel in choosing food products (OR 0.45, 95%CI 0.22-0.91), the health claims information (OR 0.54, 95%CI 0.32-0.28) and the information on carbohydrates when deciding to buy a product (OR 0.44, 95%CI 0.20-0.97) in comparison with WIC eligible non-participants.
Any intervention to improve use of nutritional labels and knowledge of the USDA’s nutritional programs needs to target low-income women, including WIC participants. Future studies should evaluate possible reasons for the low use of nutrition labels among WIC participants.
PMCID: PMC4008321  PMID: 22171961
17.  Feeding Her Children, but Risking Her Health: The Intersection of Gender, Household Food Insecurity and Obesity 
Social science & medicine (1982)  2011;74(11):1754-1764.
This paper investigates one explanation for the consistent observation of a strong, negative correlation in the United States between income and obesity among women, but not men. We argue that a key factor is the gendered expectation that mothers are responsible for feeding their children. When income is limited and households face food shortages, we predict that an enactment of these gendered norms places mothers at greater risk for obesity relative to child-free women and all men. We adopt an indirect approach to study these complex dynamics using data on men and women of child-rearing age and who are household heads or partners in the 1999–2003 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). We find support for our prediction: Food insecure mothers are more likely than child-free men and women and food insecure fathers to be overweight or obese and to gain more weight over four years. The risks are greater for single mothers relative to mothers in married or cohabiting relationships. Supplemental models demonstrate that this pattern cannot be attributed to post-pregnancy biological changes that predispose mothers to weight gain or an evolutionary bias toward biological children. Further, results are unchanged with the inclusion of physical activity, smoking, drinking, receipt of food stamps, or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program participation. Obesity, thus, offers a physical expression of the vulnerabilities that arise from the intersection of gendered childcare expectations and poverty.
PMCID: PMC3338899  PMID: 22245381
overweight; obesity; gender; food insecurity; parenting; income; USA
18.  Lessons from the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs): precautionary principle, primary prevention, and the value of community-based body-burden monitoring using breast milk. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2003;111(1):109-114.
Levels of chemicals in humans (body burdens) are useful indicators of environmental quality and of community health. Chemical body burdens are easily monitored using breast milk samples collected from first-time mothers (primiparae) with infants 2-8 weeks of age. Currently, there is no body-burden monitoring program using breast milk in the United States, although ad hoc systems operate successfully in several European countries. In this article we describe the value of such monitoring and important considerations of how it might be accomplished, drawing from our experiences with pilot monitoring projects. Breast milk has several advantages as a sampling matrix: It is simple and noninvasive, with samples collected by the mother. It monitors body burdens in reproductive-age women and it estimates in utero and nursing-infant exposures, all important to community health. Time-trend data from breast milk monitoring serve as a warning system that identifies chemicals whose body burdens and human exposures are increasing. Time trends also serve as a report card on how well past regulatory actions have reduced environmental chemical exposures. Body-burden monitoring using breast milk should include educational programs that encourage breast-feeding. Finally, and most important, clean breast milk matters to people and leads to primary prevention--the limiting of chemical exposures. We illustrate these advantages with polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), a formerly obscure group of brominated flame retardants that rose to prominence and were regulated in Sweden when residue levels were found to be rapidly increasing in breast milk. A community-based body-burden monitoring program using breast milk could be set up in the United States in collaboration with the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC has a large number of lactating first-time mothers: It has 6,000 clinics nationwide and serves almost half (47%) the infants born in the United States. Educational programs (e.g., those run by WIC) are needed that encourage breast-feeding, especially in lower-income communities where breast-feeding rates are low and where breast-feeding may help protect the infant from the effects of environmental chemical exposures. Education is also needed about reducing chemical body burdens. A body-burden monitoring program would provide valuable data on time trends, background levels, and community hot spots in need of mitigation and follow-up health studies; develop analytic methods for new chemicals of concern; and archive breast milk samples for future analyses of other agents.
PMCID: PMC1241314  PMID: 12515688
19.  Validity of child anthropometric measurements in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children 
Pediatric Research  2012;71(3):286-292.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves 50% of infants and 25% of preschool-aged children in the U.S. and collects height and weight measurements from eligible children every six months, making WIC data a valuable resource for studying childhood growth and obesity. We assessed the accuracy of measurements collected by WIC staff by comparing them to “gold standard” measurements collected by trained research staff. At seven WIC clinics in southern California, 287 children ages 2–5 years measured by WIC staff using WIC standard protocol were re-measured by research staff using a research protocol (duplicate measurements with shoes and outerwear removed taken by trained personnel). Intraclass correlation coefficients measuring agreement between WIC and research protocol measurements for height, weight and body mass index (BMI) were 0.96, 0.99 and 0.93, respectively. Although WIC measurements overestimated height by 0.6 cm and weight by 0.05 kg on average, BMI was underestimated by only 0.15 kg/m2 on average. WIC BMI percentiles classified children as overweight/obese versus underweight/normal with 86% sensitivity and 92% specificity. We conclude that height, weight and BMI measurements of children aged 2–5 years collected by trained WIC staff are sufficiently accurate for monitoring and research purposes.
PMCID: PMC3282987  PMID: 22337260
20.  Use of Farmers Markets by Mothers of WIC Recipients, Miami-Dade County, Florida, 2011 
Farmers market-based interventions, including the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), represent a promising strategy for improving dietary behaviors in low-income communities. Little is known, however, about the health-related characteristics of low-income parents who frequent farmers markets in urban settings. The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between family-health factors and the use of farmers markets by mothers of WIC recipients.
We recruited a convenience sample of mothers of children seeking care at a primary care clinic in a large urban public hospital in Miami, Florida, in 2011 (n = 181 total). The clinic was adjacent to a newly established farmers market at the hospital. Each mother completed an interviewer-administered survey that included self-reported measures of maternal and child health, acculturation, dietary behaviors, food insecurity, and use of farmers markets.
Reported use of farmers markets was independently associated with maternal history of diabetes (odds ratio [OR], 6.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3–38.3) and increased maternal vegetable (but not fruit) consumption (OR, 3.5; 95% CI, 1.5–8.1). Intended future use of farmers markets was independently associated with being unemployed (OR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.0–5.7), increased maternal vegetable consumption (OR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.1–5.7), and food insecurity (OR, 3.6; 95% CI, 1.3–10.3).
This study provides a snapshot of factors associated with farmers market use in a diverse population of urban low-income families. Understanding these factors may inform public health approaches to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption in communities at high risk for preventable chronic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3684356  PMID: 23764344
21.  WIC's promotion of infant formula in the United States 
The United States' Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) distributes about half the infant formula used in the United States at no cost to the families. This is a matter of concern because it is known that feeding with infant formula results in worse health outcomes for infants than breastfeeding.
The evidence that is available indicates that the WIC program has the effect of promoting the use of infant formula, thus placing infants at higher risk. Moreover, the program violates the widely accepted principles that have been set out in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and in the human right to adequate food.
There is no good reason for an agency of government to distribute large quantities of free infant formula. It is recommended that the large-scale distribution of free infant formula by the WIC program should be phased out.
PMCID: PMC1481608  PMID: 16722534
22.  A randomized controlled trial to prevent childhood obesity through early childhood feeding and parenting guidance: rationale and design of study 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:880.
Early and rapid growth in Infants is strongly associated with early development and persistence of obesity in young children. Substantial research has linked child obesity/overweight to increased risks for serious health outcomes, which include adverse physical, psychological, behavioral, or social consequences.
The goal of this study is to compare the effectiveness of structured Community Health Worker (CHW)- provided home visits, using an intervention created through community-based participatory research, to standard care received through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office visits in preventing the development of overweight (weight/length ≥85th percentile) and obesity (weight/length ≥95th percentile) in infants during their first 3 years of life. One hundred forty pregnant women in their third trimester (30–36 weeks) will be recruited and randomly assigned to the intervention or control group.
This study will provide prospective data on the effects of an intervention to prevent childhood obesity in children at high risk for obesity due to ethnicity, income, and maternal body mass index (BMI). It will have wide-ranging applicability and the potential for rapid dissemination through the WIC program, and will demonstrate the effectiveness of a community approach though employing CHWs in preventing obesity during the first 3 years of life. This easy-to-implement obesity prevention intervention can be adapted for many locales and diverse communities and can provide evidence for policy change to influence health throughout life.
Trial registration
Clinical Trials Number: NCT01905072
PMCID: PMC3852597  PMID: 24063435
Childhood obesity; Home visiting; Community approach
23.  Food subsidy programs and the health and nutritional status of disadvantaged families in high income countries: a systematic review 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:1099.
Less healthy diets are common in high income countries, although proportionally higher in those of low socio-economic status. Food subsidy programs are one strategy to promote healthy nutrition and to reduce socio-economic inequalities in health. This review summarises the evidence for the health and nutritional impacts of food subsidy programs among disadvantaged families from high income countries.
Relevant studies reporting dietary intake or health outcomes were identified through systematic searching of electronic databases. Cochrane Public Health Group guidelines informed study selection and interpretation. A narrative synthesis was undertaken due to the limited number of studies and heterogeneity of study design and outcomes.
Fourteen studies were included, with most reporting on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children in the USA. Food subsidy program participants, mostly pregnant or postnatal women, were shown to have 10–20% increased intake of targeted foods or nutrients. Evidence for the effectiveness of these programs for men or children was lacking. The main health outcome observed was a small but clinically relevant increase in mean birthweight (23–29g) in the two higher quality WIC studies.
Limited high quality evidence of the impacts of food subsidy programs on the health and nutrition of adults and children in high income countries was identified. The improved intake of targeted nutrients and foods, such as fruit and vegetables, could potentially reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases in adults, if the changes in diet are sustained. Associated improvements in perinatal outcomes were limited and most evident in women who smoked during pregnancy. Thus, food subsidy programs for pregnant women and children should aim to focus on improving nutritional status in the longer term. Further prospective studies and economic analyses are needed to confirm the health benefits and justify the investment in food subsidy programs.
PMCID: PMC3559269  PMID: 23256601
Food subsidy; Disadvantaged families; Health outcomes; Dietary intake; Nutritional status
24.  The impact of the April 1992 civil unrest on the Los Angeles REI WIC program and its participants. 
Public Health Reports  1994;109(5):606-614.
This paper discusses the findings of a study conducted in south central Los Angeles in August 1992 among women in the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The goals of the study were to determine the current demographics of WIC participants; examine the financial hardship, need for relief services, and extent of hunger resulting from the civil unrest of April 1992; look at the effects of the unrest on different ethnic groups; determine the unmet need for WIC services; and evaluate the State and local WIC responses to the unrest. The 1,189 respondents were approximately 77 percent Latina, 20 percent African American, and 3 percent white. Half or more were recent immigrants, 19 percent were pregnant and parenting adolescents, 74 percent were school dropouts, and 56 percent were single mothers. Only 1 percent had any problems using WIC vouchers after the unrest, although more than half of their grocery stores had closed. Thirty-five percent experienced food deficits in their households, and 33 percent of those who applied for emergency food stamps had trouble getting them. Four percent said their children had gone to bed hungry in the last week, and 9 percent said they, the respondents, had as well. Only 2 percent needed shelter, and 1 percent became homeless, but 6 percent had family members who lost jobs due to the unrest. This study suggests that the chronically substandard conditions under which many families in south central Los Angeles live affect them more profoundly than did the dramatic consequences of the civil unrest.
PMCID: PMC1403547  PMID: 7938380
25.  Walk-in clinics in Ontario. An atmosphere of tension. 
Canadian Family Physician  2002;48:531-536.
OBJECTIVE: To explore family practice (FP), emergency department (ED), and walk-in clinic (WIC) physicians' perceptions and experiences regarding the effect of walk-in clinics on Ontario's health care system. DESIGN: Qualitative method of focus groups. SETTING: Hamilton, London, and Toronto, Ont. PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-three physicians participated in nine focus groups, each with four to nine participants. Family physicians, ED physicians, and WIC physicians attended separate focus groups. METHOD: Nine focus groups were conducted in three cities in Ontario. Physicians' opinions, perceptions, and experiences regarding the role and effect of WICs on Ontario's health care system were explored. Focus groups were audiotaped and comments transcribed verbatim. The qualitative data analysis program NUD*IST was used to organize the data during sequential thematic analysis. MAIN FINDINGS: Participants identified two key factors contributing to the evolution of WICs: patients' expectations for convenient health care and the perceived limited availability of family physicians. Participants thought these two related factors resulted in a gap in primary care services that WICs had filled. Throughout discussions, an atmosphere of tension permeated the focus groups. Tension seemed to arise from issues of duplication, competition, standards of practice and quality of care in WICs, the effect of environmental and personal factors on physicians' practice, and the practice philosophy adopted by WIC physicians. CONCLUSION: Both FP and ED participants acknowledged their contribution to the gap in primary care services. They appeared to attribute current problems in health care delivery to the perceived deficiencies of WICs. The outcome was a marked tension among participants.
PMCID: PMC2213998  PMID: 11935717

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