WIC, Medicaid Have Reduced Infant Deaths

University Park, Pa. -- Two key public programs under political scrutiny -- the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Medicaid -- have reduced infant deaths, says researchers.

"WIC and Medicaid have helped poor women reduce infant mortality on two levels," says Dr. Karen P. Carver, assistant professor of sociology at Penn State and a research associate with the University's Population Research Institute. "First, WIC and Medicaid participants have lower infant death rates associated with pregnancy and delivery.

"Second, WIC participation by mothers is beneficial for infants at risk of death due primarily to environmental or external causes, including infectious and contagious diseases and accidents," Carver notes.

Carver and Dr. Nancy E. Moss, an associate of the Pacific Institute for Women's Health in Los Angeles, are co-authors of the article, "The Effect of WIC and Medicaid on Infant Mortality in the United States," published in the American Journal Of Public Health.

To estimate WIC and Medicaid effects on infant mortality, the researchers used a survey comparing participating and non-participating women whose household incomes were a little less than double the 1988 poverty line. The study data were obtained from the 1988 National Maternal and Infant Health Survey, which contained measures of program participation during pregnancy and infancy.

"WIC intervention during pregnancy appears to reduce both deaths related to pregnancy and delivery, and mortality resulting from subsequent disease or accident," Carver says.

The researchers' findings also suggest that, compared to children of self-insured or uninsured women, children of Medicaid participants are less likely to die in the course of pregnancy and delivery; their risk of death was equal to that of the privately insured. However, infants of Medicaid participants are still at higher risk of

Contact: Paul Blaum
Penn State

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