We got some good news from the childhood obesity public health front this week!  This week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report  found that the obesity rate among WIC participants aged 2–4 years went down in most states between 2010 and 2016 in most states including Arizona.  Arizona’s rate went from 15% in 2010 to 12% in 2016.  The study  looked at kids between 2 and 4 years old that participate in WIC between 2010 and 2016  obesity.  Very encouraging.

Here’s an news article that summarizes the Arizona results.

A big factor was undoubtedly a public health policy initiative from back in 2009 which revised the content of the foods that qualify under the program- to better align with nutrition research and practice guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The revised food packages included a broader range of healthy food options and promotes fruit, vegetable, and whole wheat product purchases; support breastfeeding; and gave states more flexibility to accommodate cultural food preferences.

The study was among WIC participants- but WIC interventions are likely not the only intervention at play here.  Other state initiatives were under way in Arizona during the 2010 – 2016 study period, including:

  • Working with the county health departments to implement the Health in Arizona Policy Initiative. This initiative focused on school health, worksite wellness, healthy community design, procurement of healthy foods (like having healthy alternatives in vending machines), preventive clinical care, and inclusion of children with special health care needs.

  • The implementation of the CDC public health prevention grant in 2013, which, like the Health in Arizona Policy Initiative, which made healthy living easier by supporting healthy environments in workplaces, schools, early childhood education/child care, and in the community. Arizona was one of 32 states to be awarded enhanced funding that year and received $2M per year for 5- years. That grant resulted in a host of statewide interventions.

  • Arizona’s county health departments implemented Health Impact Assessments, action plans, and initiatives during the study period aimed at increasing healthy eating and active living by using tools like the Arizona Health in Policy and Practice Resources and the Urban Land Institute’s Community Plan, both of which help local officials to focus on a holistic approach to land use planning, zoning, transportation, economic development, real estate development and finance.

  • School Health Advisory Councils were started in 2012 which helped schools to identify and incorporate best practices for obesity prevention including standards that promote healthy eating and physical activity, like focusing on serving fruits and vegetables, limiting sugary beverages, and providing more opportunities for physical activity, and reducing screen time- like the ADHS’ 2010 nationally-recognized Empower program does.

  • State level legislative policy also may have been a factor. Back in 2013 we were able to pass ARS 33-1551 which addresses liability concerns of schools when opening outdoor facilities to the public outside of the school day- making it easier for schools to open playgrounds to the public so children have more places to play and be physically active.

WIC at a Glance

As a federal grant program inside the USDA, WIC is administered by states, territories, and Indian Tribal Organizations to provide supplemental nutritious foods, breastfeeding support, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income children aged <5 years and pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding women. WIC PC is a biennial census in even years of all participants certified to receive WIC benefits.

To be eligible for WIC, participants must live in the states in which they apply, have gross household income ≤185% of the federal poverty guidelines or be eligible for other programs (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), and be at nutrition risk. Children’s weight and height are measured by WIC staff members during certification and recertification clinical visits.