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DHS news release

March 21, 2007

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Katherine Bradley, 971-673-0233

Assessment shows "WIC works"

A U.S. Office of Management and Budget assessment confirms something state health officials have known for years: The federally funded Women, Infants and Children nutrition program is one of government's top-performing programs.

Among 179 "Programs Related to Health and Well Being," WIC was one of only 20 to receive the highest ranking possible. Of the total 977 federal programs reviewed by OMB, WIC came in among the top 17 percent.

The OMB found WIC's 2006 performance had a positive impact on birth outcomes and children's nutrition and immunization rates. WIC also received high marks for efficient use of program funds and maximizing its ability to serve eligible clients.

"WIC gives children a healthy start and it strengthens local economies," said Katherine Bradley, Ph.D., administrator of family health programs in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division. "It reaches families most in need of preventive health services who otherwise would not have access to them."

Every year in Oregon WIC serves approximately 167,000 low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and children under age 5 who have a health or nutrition risk. DHS data show:

  • Forty percent of Oregon babies born are to a mother who received WIC services while pregnant.
  • One-third of all children under age 5 are served by WIC.
  • More than 72 percent of WIC clients are from employed families.
  • WIC families purchase $59 million worth of nutritionally approved foods in 640 grocery stores statewide and $445,000 of fresh produce from local farmers through the Farm Direct Nutrition Program.

Though many people may think of WIC as a food voucher program, it is a public health program designed to produce positive health outcomes for families, according to Bradley. Specifically:

  • Families benefit from education on the importance of nutrition and physical activity.
  • Women and children receive health and growth screening at periodic intervals and, if needed, referral to other preventive health services.
  • WIC actively promotes breastfeeding, a key strategy for protecting newborns from health risks.

Although WIC is meeting its long-term goals, OMB identified childhood obesity as a future challenge. Bradley noted this problem is not limited to WIC children, but is an issue for many non-WIC children as well.

"WIC is making changes to its food package to address the obesity issue. Improving breastfeeding rates will help because breastfed babies have a lower risk for obesity later in life and breastfeeding helps mothers lose weight gained during pregnancy more quickly," Bradley said.

The assessment can be found on the OMB Web site.

WIC is one of many public health programs within DHS that focus on prevention and helping people manage their health so they can be as productive and healthy as possible. Information can be found on the Oregon WIC Web site.