Playing Games with the Health of Our Moms and Kids
Some members in the U.S. House of Representatives want to deny or delay healthcare access for our nation’s uninsured before they pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government funded and open. Their willingness to allow a government shutdown to continue places already vulnerable mothers and young children across the nation at risk of losing crucial nutrition and healthcare services.
The government shutdown ceased funding for our nation’s largest public health nutrition program—the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). With the help of temporary operating funds, WIC Programs are able to keep their doors open at least through October 31st .
However, State WIC Programs are operating in an environment of tremendous uncertainty relying on unspent funds from the last fiscal year, limited cost-containment revenue, and a small and finite amount of contingency funds provided by USDA.
WIC is a federally-funded nutrition program designed to influence lifetime nutrition and health behaviors in a population of low-income mothers and young children with or at risk for developing nutrition-related health issues. Good nutrition, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care and social services are the cornerstones of WIC.
Removing participants from WIC (2.1 million mothers and 6.8 million infants and children were served each month in 2012) due to inadequate funding have both short and long-term consequences:
- Every WIC client has at least one nutritional risk and many have more.
- Mothers and young children cut from WIC will not have access to WIC’s nutritious supplemental foods, nutrition education, and healthcare referrals.
- They may go without healthy or enough food. In the long-term, healthy childhood growth and development may be hampered; lifelong healthy behaviors thwarted.
- Ultimately, these mothers and children may suffer the physical, mental, and financial costs that result from health and development problems during the rest of life, impacting American economic productivity and national security.
- Preventing eligible mothers and young children seeking WIC services deprives young children a healthy start in life and the opportunity to thrive.
Key WIC Facts
Who Does WIC Serve?
WIC serves vulnerable women and children who are at or below 185% of the federal poverty level and at nutrition-risk. 53% of infants born in the U.S. are served by WIC.
What does WIC do?
- Provides moms and young children with a prescription for specific healthy foods that provide important nutrients.
- Provides healthcare connections to maternal, prenatal, and pediatric health services.
- Provides moms with breastfeeding education and support to give their infant a healthy start.
How does WIC help?
Numerous studies show that just some of WIC outcomes include:
- Reduced premature births
- Reduced low and very low birth-weight babies
- Increased access to prenatal care earlier in pregnancy
- Increased pregnant women’s consumption of key nutrients such as iron, protein, calcium, and Vitamins A and C
- Increased access to regular health care
If Congress fails to pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution before month’s end, many WIC Programs across the nation will run out of operating funds. Clinics will be forced to close their doors, turn participants away, and end benefits. This would be unconscionable.
The health and well-being of our nation’s families and communities are at stake. If you want Congress to know that WIC must be protected for the millions of mothers and young children, now is the time to let them know.
What can you do?
- Tell Congress through calls, emails and tweets that the government shutdown is putting WIC moms and kids at risk!
- Tell Congress the House needs to pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution
The National WIC Association (NWA) is the non-profit education arm and advocacy voice of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.