Healthy Eating Program Showing Results

A recent study shows a positive connection between the new food package being provided under the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children and a decline in obesity and overweight among children enrolled in the program.

The study, “Changing WIC Changes What Children Eat,” evaluated statewide childhood obesity prevention policies in the WIC program and was published in the January edition of the national journal Obesity.

“The new WIC food package was designed to promote healthier eating choices for children and we are excited by results that show it is helping to reduce pediatric obesity,” said Dr. Nirav Shaw, state health commissioner. “New York was the first state to implement the new WIC food package and is the first to report that changing the foods provided to children under the program helped to improve their eating behavior and achieve healthier weights. Changing WIC foods does change what children eat.”

Dr. Sally Findley of the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University, Dr. Mary Chiasson of Public Health Solutions and Dr. Jackson Sekhobo of the state Health Department led the study, which was funded by a four-year, $2.2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New York State Health Foundation.

The WIC program promotes good nutrition and healthy weight gain for 125,000 low-income pregnant, post partum or breastfeeding women, as well as 400,000 infants and children up to the age of five each month. Under the revised WIC food package, implemented by New York state in January 2009, mothers and their children receive a more balanced group of foods that reflect dietary recommendations to consume less fat and sweetened beverages, and to eat more fiber and fruits and vegetables. The program also introduced the FITWIC initiative to teach parents and children how to incorporate simple physical activities into their lives.

In the study researchers compared early childhood obesity prevalence and related healthy behaviors for New York state children enrolled in WIC prior to and after the implementation of the changes in the food package. Results show post-implementation improvements in healthy eating behavior along with a continuing decline in obesity and overweight that is greater than the national trends. The study concludes that “WIC has enormous potential to positively influence nutrition and diet, both now and in the future.”

The study also noted that “Within the context of the WIC Healthy Lifestyle initiative, which includes breastfeeding peer and client-centered counseling on ways parents can help their families increase healthy eating and reduce screen time, the changes in the WIC food package have resulted in positive changes in dietary intake, weight, and screen time for the hundreds of thousands of young children participating in the NYS WIC program.”.

For more information, visit www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/wic.


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