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Open Access Publications from the University of California

WIC Program Participation and Early Childhood Overweight


Overweight and obesity constitute a growing and significant public health problem; increasing incidence and prevalence of overweight in young children is of particular concern. This study examines the question of whether participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) may play a role in risk for early childhood overweight. We conducted a case-control study including 555 WIC participant children ages 3-5 years who were either overweight (BMI >95th percentile of reference standard) or normal weight (BMI 25-75th percentile). The hypothesis was two-sided, since there are logical reasons why WIC participation might be either preventive or promotive of overweight in young children. The population is large majority (95%) Hispanic, a group that has been documented to have the highest rates of overweight and obesity in adults and children. The independent variable of interest (“Family Dose of WIC”) was constructed as cumulative history of WIC program participation for the entire family, adjusted for reported breaks in participation, and then expressed as person-years. Family dose of WIC did not differ between cases and controls, and had a median of 12.6 person-years. In multivariate logistic regression analyses controlled for a number of variables, “family dose of WIC” had no predictive power. Only mother’s BMI and child height were significantly predictive of child overweight; number of hours of television watching showed a slight but non-significant relationship to overweight risk and number of hours of sleep at night a slight but non-significant negative relationship. There is no indication that cumulative time of WIC program participation influences risk of early childhood overweight.

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