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Guide PHIT Data: Select Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program data

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children—otherwise known as WIC—is a nutrition program that provides healthy foods, nutrition education and counseling, breastfeeding support, and referrals to other health and social services, free of charge, to Massachusetts families who qualify. The WIC Nutrition Program keeps pregnant and breastfeeding women and kids under 5 healthy.

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What you need to know

Calculation of the estimated WIC-eligible women, infants and children:

Using annual birth certificate data from Massachusetts resident mothers who delivered a live infant in-state, the approximate number of WIC-eligible women and children in each city/town, based on the city/town of residence listed on the infant’s birth certificate, is estimated for the WIC Needs Assessment from the following:

  • Infants—An infant born in a given calendar year was considered eligible either if the mother indicated prenatal participation in WIC as recorded on the birth certificate, or if the mother had her prenatal care or her labor and delivery paid for by government funds (predominately Medicaid). While not all Medicaid plans qualify for adjunctive eligibility, sensitivity analysis show approximately the same proportion of women who participate in a Medicaid plan which does not qualify for WIC adjunctive eligibility equals the proportion of women who qualify financially for WIC, but who have non-Medicaid insurance, making the indication of Medicaid payment on the birth certificate a suitable estimate of eligibility for the WIC Needs Assessment. If an infant’s birth certificate indicated mother’s prenatal participation in WIC and Medicaid payment, the infant was still counted only once.
  • Children—Eligible children were similarly identified using in-state resident birth certificate data for the four previous years prior to the given year for infants, minus infant deaths that occurred in those four previous years (i.e., if infants were born in 2018, data for children use 2014-2017 birth certificates).
  • Women—Eligible women are estimated by the number of eligible infants (as calculated above) and the estimated maximum time a woman would be eligible for WIC services:
    • Pregnant women—Number of eligible infants x 0.667. This figure represents 8 out of 12 months of the year during which eligible women could be pregnant, as very few women enroll in WIC within 2 weeks of conception.  This method allows for identification of pregnant women who will deliver in the following year, but are eligible to participate in WIC during the given year.  This method assumes that the number of births, and hence the number of pregnant women, will be comparable between adjacent years. In 2018, there were 67,554 in-state resident births (based on preliminary data).
    • Breastfeeding and postpartum (non-breastfeeding) women—Number of eligible infants x 1.0. As a mainly-breastfeeding woman is eligible for WIC until her infant’s 1st birthday, theoretically as many women remain eligible for the year as there are eligible infants.  Postpartum (non-breastfeeding) women remain eligible for 6 months after delivery, but are represented by the 12 month eligibility that a breastfeeding mother has, and therefore not counted separately.
  • Total Number Eligible— The total number eligible is the sum of eligible infants, children, and women, and is presented in PHIT.

Explore WIC data

As this method is different from the previous method, MA WIC does not recommend comparing these estimates of eligibility data to years prior to 2017.  This method also utilizes the maximum length of time a woman is eligible for WIC based on significantly breastfeeding through her infant’s first year, which does not yet represent the infant feeding method of the majority of recent mothers. This method uses in-state resident live births (identified by MA birth certificate). Therefore, women who live in MA during their pregnancies but who deliver outside of MA, and infants and children who are born outside of MA but who then move to MA, will not be counted.  This method also does not capture eligible pregnant women who miscarry or have a still-birth.  Similarly, as we do not have a way to track migration, infants who are born in MA whose families then move out of state are not removed from the estimate.  The estimated number of eligible women, infants and children may be inflated because Military families are usually covered under TriCare insurance and are inadvertently included in the denominator of estimated WIC eligible women, infants and children because of the government source of payment for prenatal care and labor/delivery.  Military families which exceed the WIC financial guidelines are not eligible for WIC services. 

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Information about these data

Active WIC participants-women, infants and children—The number of Active WIC women, infants and children is calculated each month using the city/town of residence listed in the participant’s records, which may be different from the residence listed on the infant’s birth certificate.  These monthly counts are then summed and averaged over the year to account for seasonal variation in active participation.  WIC participants are not required to use the Local Program in their home neighborhood/town/city, but may receive services at any WIC site.

Suppression Towns with fewer than 11 eligible WIC participants have data suppressed to maintain participant confidentiality.

Smoking prevalence is for pregnant women because while the overall prevalence among pregnant women is similar to the overall prevalence among postpartum women, there is a big difference in prevalence between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.

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