CDC reported a decline in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 4 who participate in WIC
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, provides healthy foods and nutrition education to pregnant women, mothers, and children under age 5. The program currently serves roughly half of all infants born in the United States. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that obesity rates among preschool children enrolled in WIC have declined in recent years.
In 2016, 13.9% of 2- to 4-year-olds enrolled in WIC nationally had obesity, down from 15.9% in 2010. The decline was statistically significant among all racial and ethnic groups studied: white, black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander.
Authors from the CDC noted a few reasons that might have contributed to the declines, including:
- Updates to the package of foods included in WIC, made in 2009, to better align them with the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- The 2009 updates also included revisions to promote and support breastfeeding.
- General increases in awareness of the importance of preventing obesity at an early age, and federal support for state efforts to improve nutrition, physical activity, breastfeeding support and screen time limits in early childhood education programs.
- In a separate study, researchers from the University of North Carolina found that, after revisions to the WIC food package, families participating in WIC purchased food that contained significantly fewer calories, and less sodium, fat and sugar, than the food families bought before the revisions.
An earlier publication with state-by-state data showed that, between 2010 and 2014, the obesity rates decreased in 31 states and three territories, increased in four states and remained stable in the rest. State-by-state data for 2016 are not yet available. The states and territories that measured obesity declines between 2010 and 2014 are:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Northern Mariana Islands
- Puerto Rico
- South Carolina
More About WIC
WIC Policy Page
This policy synthesis includes some of the latest research on WIC, and recommends policy changes to help improve it.
Statement on Declining Obesity
A statement from Jamie Bussel, senior program officer and childhood obesity lead at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, regarding declining obesity rates among children participating in WIC
State by State Obesity Rates
This interactive data feature shows state-by-state obesity rates for children participating in WIC.
Post updated in July 2019.