ALBANY, N.Y., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A government program for low-income U.S. mothers and their children redesigned to include healthier food is linked to less obesity, officials say.
Dr. Nirav R. Shah, New York state's health commissioner, said a recent study showed a positive connection between the state's Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which included healthier food and a decline in obesity and overweight children enrolled in the program.
"The new WIC food package was designed to promote healthier eating choices for children and we are excited by results that show it is helping to reduce pediatric obesity," Shah said in a statement.
"New York was the first state to implement the new WIC food package and is the first to report that changing the foods provided to children under the program helped to improve their eating behavior and achieve healthier weights. Changing WIC foods does change what children eat."
The WIC program in New York promotes good nutrition and healthy weight gain for 125,000 low-income pregnant, post partum or breastfeeding women, as well as 400,000 infants and children up to the age of 5 each month, Shah said.
Under the revised WIC food package, implemented by New York state in January 2009, mothers and their children received a more balanced group of food reflecting dietary recommendations to consume less fat and sweetened beverages, and to eat more fiber and fruits and vegetables.
The program also introduced an initiative to teach parents and children how to incorporate simple physical activities into their lives.
In the study, published in Obesity, compared early childhood obesity and related healthy behaviors for New York state children enrolled in WIC prior to and after the implementation of the changes in the food package.
Results showed post-implementation improvements in healthy eating behavior along with a continuing decline in child obesity and overweight greater than national trends, the study said.