Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Nutritional Services is one of many federal programs that provides health care and proper nutrition to low income women during the antenatal and postpartum periods. The duty of WIC is to protect the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age 5 who are at an increased risk of nutrition deficiencies by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, and referrals to health care (Better Nutrition, n.d). Many services are provided through various health clinics, hospitals, schools, community centers, and public housing centers. Most states WIC programs provide vouchers that participants use at approved food stores.
Through recent studies during 2008-2013, it is proven that a significant amount of pregnant women do not receive adequate nutrition and health care due to their lack of income (Metallinos-Katsaras, Gorman, Wilde, Kallio, 2011). Socio-economic status is connected to an individual’s chance of survival at birth and during their first year of life. Women from lower socio-economic groups tend to have shorter pregnancies or more frequent preterm deliveries and are more likely to have babies with lower birth weights and have higher rates of death, all of which can have an effect on the child’s development. (Jensen, 2012). The WIC program has many positives and a few negative towards the vulnerable population of low income mothers. The criterion for being eligible for WIC services are generally being 185% below poverty level. WIC clients receive an initial health and diet screening at a WIC clinic to determine nutritional risk, conversely if no risk factors are seen the applicant could easily be denied (Jensen, 2012). WIC uses two main categories of nutritional risk, medically-based risks such as a history of poor pregnancy outcome, underweight status, or iron-deficiency anemia and poor diet.
Clients will be counseled at WIC about these risks and the outcome predisposed by nutrition education if they meet the criterion. In some cases the evident deficiencies and lack of proper nutrition are not obvious and many families miss out on the opportunity (Metallinos-Katsaras, Gorman, Wilde, Kallio, 2011). Majority of pediatricians and hospitals recommend breast feeding exclusively for the first 4-5 months, however most low-income mothers do not begin breastfeeding at all and very few breastfeed for at least 3 months. The WIC program focuses on healthier foods that cost more that junk food, in which discourages families from buying more expensive foods, in substitute for cheaper unhealthy foods to save benefit monies. Recognizing this problem the United States government applied many new policies proposed to encourage and support breastfeeding among WIC partakers and increasing varieties of WIC approved foods (Better Nutrition, n.d). Nonetheless, regardless of these efforts, the program has continued to provide infant formula in food packages, which is a major in incentive or encouragement for mothers to participate in WIC, and which may very well work against the program’s importance on breastfeeding.
In many cases this incentive of giving free formula will benefit mothers and at the same time not benefit mothers. Providing formula instead of breast feeding lowers the amount of funds for other types of nutrition, whereas breastfeeding frees up more monies for nutritious food rather than formula. The possibility that participation in WIC actually might discourage breastfeeding is disturbing in light of the already low rates of breastfeeding among poor mothers and the mounting evidence that breastfeeding is linked to reductions in illness among children therefore benefiting the families (Frick, Pugh, Milligan, 2012). Moreover, some have argued that an increase in breastfeeding among WIC participants would lead to significant cost savings for WIC and other publicly funded programs therefore allowing more benefits for other causes for the poverty stricken women and children (Jensen, 2012). References
Better Nutrition for a Brighter Future. (n.d.).WIC. Retrieved from http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/wic/SitePages/Home.aspx Jensen, E. (2012). Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Breastfeeding: National, Regional, and State Level Analyses. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 16(3), 624-631. doi: 10.1007/s10995-011-0796-7 Frick, K. D., Pugh, L. C., & Milligan, R. A. (2012). Costs Related to Promoting Breastfeeding Among Urban Low-Income Women. JOGNN: Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 41(1), 144-150. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.2011.01316.x Metallinos-Katsaras, E., Gorman, K., Wilde, P., & Kallio, J. (2011). A Longitudinal Study of WIC Participation on Household Food Insecurity. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 15(5), 627-633. Doi: 10.1007/s10995-010-0616-5