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Duration of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Participation is Associated With Children's Diet Quality at Age 3 Years

      Introduction

      Adequate childhood nutrition contributes to prevention of chronic diseases. The supplemental foods and nutrition education provided by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, a federal program serving women, infants, and children up to age 5 years in low-income families and at nutritional risk, intend to optimize dietary intakes. This study assesses associations between duration of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children participation, early feeding practices, and children's diet quality at age 3 years.

      Methods

      Using data collected between 2013 and 2017 from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study-2, investigators derived 4 mutually exclusive patterns of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children participation: participation in the child's first year only, participation into the second year, participation into the third year, and intermittent participation across 3 years. In 2021, multivariable regression assessed associations between these patterns, early feeding practices, and 2015 Health Eating Index total score at age 3 years.

      Results

      When compared with children who participated in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children into their third year, children who participated in their first year only (p<0.01) had 2015 Healthy Eating Index total scores that were 3.6 points lower on a given day. Children introduced to sugar-sweetened beverages in their first year had scores that were 2.4 points lower than children not introduced to them in their first 2 years (p=0.03), whereas those breastfed longer exhibited a small increase in scores (p<0.01).

      Conclusions

      Longer participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children improves children's diets, potentially mitigating chronic disease risk. Clinician efforts to refer at-risk families to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children during the early childhood years are supported.
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