November 2, 2018

Drs. Marie Thoma, Jinhee Kim, and Michel Boudreaux received a USDA cooperative agreement to examine overall and state-specific trends in WIC use during pregnancy. Special supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides “supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income women, infants, and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk.” In general, previous research in the past decades have shown that WIC improves birth outcomes, including preterm birth, low birthweight, and infant mortality. Past studies have utilized small samples from clinics, nationally-representative samples, or state-level data, but have not examined complete records of all births within states. Recent studies showed that changes to WIC food packages improved nutritional outcomes of participants using state-level data. To date, there is no research that examines the association between WIC and birth outcomes and trends among pregnant women since the WIC food package change in 2009 using complete birth records (i.e., 100% of all registered births within states).

The agreement will be used to compare birth and neonatal health indicators by WIC use during pregnancy. Yet, overall the goal of the research is to provide descriptive patterns and trends on WIC use during pregnancy and state-specific comparisons in key maternal and child health indicators over time. The results of their research will inform policies, plans, and future analyses on changes in WIC provision in the future. Findings will also contribute to policy suggestions for the coordination of government health care and nutrition programs.

Drs. Thoma, Kim, and Boudreaux were inspired to work together by the fact each of them have complementary expertise that could inform their research on WIC use during pregnancy.

“Dr. Kim has expertise in family finance and food assistance programs, Dr. Boudreaux in publicly-financed health programs and low income populations, and my research on maternal and child health and vital records data. Having an interdisciplinary team strengthens this research because it offers different perspectives and solutions to addressing our research questions” says Dr. Thoma

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Marie Thoma, Jinhee Kim, Michel Boudreaux