persons, it has been associated with improved health outcomes, and the increase in the cost of the food package over time has been less than the rate of inflation.

The challenge given to the presenters, Susan Bartlett and Loren Bell, and the discussant, Zoë Neuberger, was to address new ways of documenting the reach of WIC given various changes that have occurred within WIC, the impending health care reform, and the changing demographics of the WIC-eligible population.

PERSPECTIVES

Presenter: Susan Bartlett1

Useful Information for Policymakers

A group at Abt Associates used a series of questions to develop recommendations for a WIC research agenda. Starting with the question “What information would be most useful to policymakers?” the group laid out two broad topics for discussion: (1) “How well is WIC working now?” and (2) “How could WIC work better?” Under the first topic, the questions were centered on whether WIC is necessary, sufficient, benign, and cost-effective. The second topic focused on ways to increase WIC’s effectiveness in achieving objectives and ways to remove or reduce unintended adverse consequences.

Concerning the issue of whether to try to measure the overall impact of WIC, the group identified various reasons not to try, including the difficulty—perhaps impossibility—of measuring the impact accurately and the high level of support for WIC. However, it also identified a number of reasons to try to make such measurements, such as determining whether there are deleterious effects, identifying variations among subgroups that could lead to program improvements, and providing evidence to support increased program funding.

Potential Research Topics

The group’s discussions led to the identification of four research domains: (1) WIC participation, (2) a logic model for effects, (3) potential improvements to the program, and (4) experimental studies to investigate impacts. Each of these is discussed briefly below.

1

Bartlett credited the contributions of many of her colleagues at Abt Associates.



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