Background: Research shows that the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programme improves the nutrition and health of low-income families. Recent studies have also shown that WIC improves access to health care services and use. However, no studies have reported whether WIC reduces unmet health care needs in young children. Methods: This is a retrospective study of 2810 mostly low-income urban mothers and their five-year-old children in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Mothers reported whether they received any WIC benefits since the child turned three. Unmet health care needs were operationalized through three outcomes: not having a place for routine care, not having seen a doctor for a regular checkup in the past year, and never having had a dental checkup. Results: In adjusted logistic regressions, children in families receiving WIC benefits were less likely to not have a place for routine care (odds ratio = 0.54, 95% CI: 0.32, 0.93), and less likely to never have had a dental check-up (odds ratio = 0.75, 95% CI: 0.58–0.97). There was no association between receiving WIC benefits and the child not having a regular checkup in the past year. Conclusions: In this study of urban children, receiving WIC benefits was associated with a lower risk of unmet health care needs. Given that only half of eligible families receive WIC benefits, the programme has the potential to reduce unmet health care needs for a large number of children of eligible families not enrolled in the programme.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health