Obesity Among WIC-Enrolled Young Children

Obesity disproportionally affects children from low-income families. CDC surveys obesity prevalence among children from low-income families to monitor progress over time, and identify priority areas that need attention. To this end, CDC works with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to analyze data from the WIC Participant and Program Characteristics Reportexternal icon (WIC PC).

WIC PC is a biennial census, conducted by the USDA in April of even years. WIC PC summarizes the demographic characteristics of participants in WIC nationwide, and includes information on nutrition risk characteristics, such as weight status.

What is WIC?

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal program that promotes healthy eating and nutrition education for infants and children up to age 5, and low-income women who are pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding.

Nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood is critical for healthy child growth and development. To be eligible for WICexternal icon women, infants, and children must meet residential, income, and nutrition risk requirements.

Recent Data, Publications, and Reports

In a recent JAMA research letterexternal icon, CDC and USDA authors analyzed obesity trends from 2010 to 2016 among young children aged 2-4 years from low-income families enrolled in WIC. The authors found that:

  • In 2016, 13.9% of the WIC participants aged 2 to 4 years had obesity.
  • The prevalence of obesity was higher among Hispanic (16.4%) and American Indian/Alaska Native (18.5%) young children than among those who were non-Hispanic white (12.1%), non-Hispanic black (11.4%), or Asians/Pacific Islander (10.0%).

View the nation’s latest childhood obesity statistics, as well as other indicators related to nutrition, physical activity and obesity, by exploring the interactive Data, Trends, and Maps site.

Trends in Childhood Obesity among Young Low-Income WIC Children in the United States, 2010-2016

  • The prevalence of obesity decreased from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.9% in 2016. [Read the JAMA research letterexternal icon]
  • During 2000–2010, the overall prevalence of obesity among young low-income children in WIC increased significantly, from 14.0% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2004 and to 15.9% in 2010.
  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity decreased from 32.5% in 2010 to 29.1% in 2016.
  • For overweight and obesity combined, and for obesity alone, there were statistically significant decreases in prevalence overall and in all age, sex, and racial/ethnic subgroups.
  • The greatest relative decreases were among children aged 2–3 years, boys, and Asians/Pacific Islanders.
Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among U.S. Children Aged 2–4 Years Enrolled in WIC by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity, 2010-2016
Table 1. Prevalence of Overweight or Obesity Among U.S. Children Aged 2–4 Years Enrolled in WIC by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity, 2010-2016
Prevalencea, % (95% CI) 2016 vs 2010
2010 2012 2014 2016 Adjusted
Prevalence Ratio
(95% CI)
Adjusted
Prevalence Differenceb
(95% CI)
Overweight or Obesity (BMI at or above the 85th percentile for age and sex on the CDC growth charts)
Overallc 32.5 (32.5 to 32.6) 31.2 (31.1 to 31.2) 30.2 (30.1 to 30.2) 29.1 (29.1 to 29.2) 0.90 (0.90 to 0.90) -3.2 (-3.3 to -3.2)
Age in yearsc
2 30.2 (30.2 to 30.3) 28.6 (28.5 to 28.7) 27.5 (27.5 to 27.6) 27.1 (27.0 to 27.2) 0.90 (0.90 to 0.90) -3.0 (-3.1 to -2.9)
3 33.4 (33.3 to 33.4) 32.0 (31.9 to 32.1) 31.1 (31.1 to 31.2) 29.7 (29.7 to 29.8) 0.90 (0.89 to 0.90) -3.5 (-3.6 to -3.4)
4 35.2 (35.1 to 35.3) 33.9 (33.8 to 34.0) 33.2 (33.1 to 33.3) 31.7 (31.5 to 31.8) 0.91 (0.90 to 0.91) -3.3 (-3.5 to -3.2)
Sexc
Boys 33.5 (33.4 to 33.6) 31.8 (31.8 to 31.9) 30.9 (30.8 to 31.0) 29.6 (29.5 to 29.6) 0.89 (0.88 to 0.89) -3.8 (-3.9 to -3.7)
Girls 31.5 (31.5 to 31.6) 30.5 (30.4 to 30.5) 29.5 (29.4 to 29.6) 28.6 (28.6 to 28.7) 0.92 (0.91 to 0.92) -2.7 (-2.8 to -2.6)
Race/Ethnicityc,d
Non-Hispanic white 28.8 (28.7 to 28.9) 27.8 (27.7 to 27.9) 27.7 (27.6 to 27.8) 27.4 (27.3 to 27.5) 0.95 (0.95 to 0.96) -1.4 (-1.5 to -1.3)
Non-Hispanic black 27.3 (27.2 to 27.4) 26.3 (26.2 to 26.4) 25.9 (25.8 to 26.0) 25.0 (24.9 to 25.1) 0.92 (0.91 to 0.92) -2.2 (-2.4 to -2.1)
Hispanic 37.2 (37.1 to 37.3) 35.5 (35.4 to 35.6) 34.0 (33.9 to 34.1) 32.6 (32.5 to 32.6) 0.88 (0.87 to 0.88) -4.6 (-4.7 to -4.5)
American Indian/
Alaska Native
40.3 (39.8 to 40.8) 37.5 (37.0 to 37.9) 36.2 (35.7 to 36.7) 36.7 (36.2 to 37.2) 0.91 (0.90 to 0.93) -3.6 (-4.2 to -2.9)
Asian/
Pacific Islander
26.6 (26.4 to 26.9) 25.2 (25.0 to 25.5) 24.2 (24.0 to 24.4) 22.4 (22.1 to 22.6) 0.84 (0.83 to 0.85) -4.2 (-4.5 to -3.9)
 

Abbreviation: WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; BMI, body mass index; CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

aCrude prevalence. Biologically implausible z scores were defined as the following when calculating the prevalence: height for age less than −5.0 or above 4.0, weight for age less than −5.0 or above 8.0, and body mass index for age less than −4.0 or more than 8.0.

bCalculated from prevalence in 2010 and adjusted prevalence ratio between 2010 and 2016 obtained from log binomial regression model controlled for age, sex, and race/ethnicity: [prevalence in 2010 x adjusted prevalence ratio between 2010 and 2016] – prevalence in 2010.

cP<0.001 for trend tests with all years’ data included; P values were obtained from log binomial regression models controlled for age, sex, and race/ethnicity.

dTrends are presented by race/ethnicity because they are important for identifying health disparities.

Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among U.S. Children Aged 2–4 Years Enrolled in WIC by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity, 2010-2016
Table 2. Prevalence of Obesity Among U.S. Children Aged 2–4 Years Enrolled in WIC by Age, Sex, and Race/Ethnicity, 2010-2016
Prevalencea, % (95% CI) 2016 vs 2010
2010 2012 2014 2016 Adjusted
Prevalence Ratio
(95% CI)
Adjusted
Prevalence Differenceb
(95% CI)
Obesity (BMI at or above the 95th percentile for age and sex on the CDC growth charts)
Overallc 15.9 (15.9 to 16.0) 15.2 (15.1 to 15.2) 14.5 (14.5 to 14.6) 13.9 (13.9 to 13.9) 0.88 (0.88 to 0.89) -1.9 (-1.9 to -1.8)
Age in yearsc
2 14.1 (14.0 to 14.1) 13.2 (13.1 to 13.3) 12.5 (12.4 to 12.5) 12.3 (12.2 to 12.3) 0.88 (0.87 to 0.88) -1.7 (-1.8 to -1.6)
3 16.6 (16.6 to 16.7) 15.9 (15.8 to 15.9) 15.4 (15.3 to 15.4) 14.5 (14.5 to 14.6) 0.88 (0.87 to 0.88) -2.0 (-2.1 to -1.9)
4 17.9 (17.8 to 18.0) 17.2 (17.1 to 17.3) 16.8 (16.7 to 16.9) 15.8 (15.7 to 15.9) 0.89 (0.88 to 0.90) -2.0 (-2.1 to -1.9)
Sexc
Boys 16.8 (16.7 to 16.9) 15.9 (15.8 to 15.9) 15.2 (15.1 to 15.2) 14.4 (14.3 to 14.5) 0.87 (0.86 to 0.87) -2.2 (-2.3 to -2.2)
Girls 15.0 (14.9 to 15.1) 14.4 (14.4 to 14.5) 13.9 (13.8 to 14.0) 13.4 (13.3 to 13.4) 0.90 (0.90 to 0.91) -1.5 (-1.6 to -1.4)
Race/Ethnicityc,d
Non-Hispanic white 12.8 (12.7 to 12.9) 12.4 (12.3 to 12.4) 12.2 (12.2 to 12.3) 12.1 (12.0 to 12.2) 0.95 (0.94 to 0.95) -0.7 (-0.8 to -0.6)
Non-Hispanic black 12.7 (12.6 to 12.8) 12.1 (12.0 to 12.2) 11.9 (11.8 to 11.9) 11.4 (11.3 to 11.5) 0.90 (0.89 to 0.91) -1.2 (-1.3 to -1.1)
Hispanic 19.3 (19.2 to 19.3) 18.3 (18.2 to 18.3) 17.3 (17.3 to 17.4) 16.4 (16.4 to 16.5) 0.86 (0.85 to 0.86) -2.8 (-2.9 to -2.7)
American Indian/
Alaska Native
20.9 (20.5 to 21.3) 18.9 (18.5 to 19.2) 18.0 (17.6 to 18.3) 18.5 (18.1 to 18.9) 0.88 (0.86 to 0.91) -2.4 (-3.0 to -1.9)
Asian/
Pacific Islander
12.5 (12.3 to 12.6) 11.7 (11.5 to 11.9) 11.1 (10.9 to 11.3) 10.0 (9.9 to 10.2) 0.81 (0.79 to 0.82) -2.4 (-2.6 to -2.2)
Abbreviation: WIC, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; BMI, body mass index; CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

aCrude prevalence. Biologically implausible z scores were defined as the following when calculating the prevalence: height for age less than −5.0 or above 4.0, weight for age less than −5.0 or above 8.0, and body mass index for age less than −4.0 or more than 8.0.

bCalculated from prevalence in 2010 and adjusted prevalence ratio between 2010 and 2016 obtained from log binomial regression model controlled for age, sex, and race/ethnicity: [prevalence in 2010 x adjusted prevalence ratio between 2010 and 2016] – prevalence in 2010.

cP<0.001 for trend tests with all years’ data included; P values were obtained from log binomial regression models controlled for age, sex, and race/ethnicity.

dTrends are presented by race/ethnicity because they are important for identifying health disparities.

Trends in Weight-for-Length Among Infants in the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program, 2000-2014

An infant’s relative weight can be measured in several ways, one of which is known as weight-for-length. Infant’s with high level of weight; such as, high body mass index (BMI), weight-for-length, or infants who exhibit rapid growth are at increased risk of subsequent obesity in childhood and early adulthood.

Overall, high weight-for-length decreased from 14.5% in 2010 to 12.3% in 2014 among infants aged 3 to 23 months that were enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Read the publicationexternal icon.

  • From 2010–2014, 36 states and territories observed a significant decrease in weight-for-length among infants aged 3 to-23 months. For state and territory specific information, please visit the State- and Territory-Specific Changes in the Prevalence of High Weight-for-Length (WFL) Among Infants in the WIC-PC Survey table.
  • High weight-for-length varied across racial/ethnic groups with the 2014 prevalence higher among American Indian (15.6%) and Hispanic (13.8%) infants than among black (11.9%), white (11%), and Asians/Pacific Islander (8.5%) infants.
  • Between 2010–2014, all 20 combinations of race/ethnicity and income showed decreases in the prevalence of high weight-for-length, with the largest decrease among American Indians and Hispanics.