I copied the following from the National WIC Associational website, but I have seen individual state websites also use these statistics trying to convince everyone WIC works and should be praised. I think they are a little unclear with their statistics, though, and wonder what the statistics really say.
Numerous studies have shown that pregnant women who participate in WIC have longer pregnancies leading to fewer premature births; have fewer low and very low birth-weight babies; experience fewer fetal and infant deaths; seek prenatal care earlier in pregnancy and consume more of such key nutrients as iron, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C.
They talk about how “numerous studies” show women who participate in WIC are healthier and have healthier babies. This is really important because healthier moms and healthier babies means much much much lower medical bills. I’d much rather my tax dollars pay for a gallon of milk and some beans than an extra day in the NICU. Healthy food is much much cheaper. Cheaper healthcare for moms means lower taxes if they are on Medicaid, or lower insurance premiums for everyone if they are on private insurance. Either way it’s worth giving moms free WIC food if it really does reduce the health care costs significantly.
The site goes on to say that “Every dollar spent on pregnant women in WIC produces $1.92 to $4.21 in Medicaid savings for newborns and their mothers.” The big question is who are they comparing WIC moms to? They never site these numerous studies so it is unclear who is being compared:
- Pregnant Moms on WIC compared to Eligible Pregnant Moms who Don’t Get on WIC
- Pregnant Moms on WIC compared to All Other Pregnant Women in America
Either comparison has significant meaning. I have a feeling the “numerous studies” are doing the first comparison.
If it’s the first, then those studies are completely invalid in proving WIC works. Of course moms who don’t seek free help that is available to them are less likely to have healthy pregancies. All the drug addicts and alcoholics that are too high or drunk to make an appointment and go into WIC are going to skew the statistics for the non-participating side. Even if WIC came to their house and forced appointments on them and handed the food vouchers to them without them ever coming in they wouldn’t all of a sudden have a healthy pregnancy and baby.
I think this comparison says more about the type of people that apply for WIC. Of all the low income people the ones who care about their health and their babies health are more likely to apply for WIC. It doesn’t mean WIC is super successful in increasing the likelihood of them and their baby being healthy.
If it’s the second, WOW! If it’s the second then I have to say I think the WIC program should be open to EVERY pregnant women in America regardless of income. If the tax dollars spent on WIC really do equate to approximately $2-$4 of healthcare savings for every $1 spent on WIC, we should be offering this to everyone because all pregnant mothers’ and infants’ medical bills effect others. If they have Medicaid it effects all the tax payers. If they have private insurance it effects the premium price of insurance for everyone else who uses the same insurance company. Overall, America would save money whether in lower taxes or lower insurance premiums if ALL mothers were allowed to be on WIC. But that is only if the second comparison is true.
Anyone know where all these “numerous studies” are? Anyone know who is being compared with the WIC participants when they talk about how much healthier WIC participants are than other moms?
UPDATE: 1/27/11 I found a post about this and confirmed that these studies are comparing the WIC eligible participating moms with the WIC eligible non-participating moms. For more information on this please read this post and read the comments as well.