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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.