News release: Minnesota’s obesity rate drops for young children enrolled in WIC

News Release
November 22, 2016

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Minnesota’s obesity rate drops for young children enrolled in WIC

Minnesota's obesity rate among children ages 2 to 4 from low-income families participating in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program decreased from 12.7 percent in 2010 to 12.3 percent in 2014, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Minnesota's obesity rate for young children enrolled in WIC is eighth lowest in the nation. Nationally, the rate was 14.5 percent in 2014. Minnesota children participating in WIC also have lower obesity rates than children using WIC in neighboring states Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, according to the data, available at The State of Obesity.

WIC promotes healthy eating and nutrition education for infants and children up to age 5 and low-income women who are pregnant, postpartum or breastfeeding. Nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood is critical for healthy child growth and development.

In Minnesota, one out of three children ages 2 to 5 are served by WIC.

“I'm pleased to see that our efforts through WIC and our community partners are showing positive results,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Healthy eating, physical activity and breastfeeding in early childhood put young children on a path to healthy weight as they grow.”

Minnesota WIC promotes healthy weight through:

  • Individualized nutrition assessments and counseling.
  • Providing a nutritious food package that includes low-fat milk, whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
  • Monitoring appropriate weight gain and growth.
  • Discouraging use of sweetened soft drinks.
  • Encouraging families to be physically active and to limit screen time for television, computers and video games.
  • Promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and breastfeeding with healthy foods for the first year of life through peer counseling and breastfeeding support.
  • Promoting appropriate weight gain during pregnancy to support healthy birth weights.
  • Referrals to community nutrition and physical activity resources.

“WIC is a public health investment that is giving children a healthy start at a healthy weight,” Ehlinger said. “To decrease obesity, we must continue investing in healthy communities that support Minnesotans in their efforts to maintain healthy weights as they go to school and mature as adults.”

Across Minnesota, communities are working together through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) to support and expand access to healthy eating and active living opportunities in schools and child care facilities, workplaces, health care and communities. SHIP grantees across Minnesota are also focused on families with babies and young children. Since January 2016, 266 child care providers caring for 8,591 children are partnering with SHIP (three-quarters of these providers are serving low-income children). Working with SHIP, providers receive training and assistance to improve their practices in healthy eating, supporting breastfeeding and physical activity.

In Buffalo, moms who have questions about breastfeeding have a place to turn for help and support. Guidance is available at the new Buffalo Baby Café, which was started with support from Buffalo Hospital, Wright County Public Health and SHIP. Baby Café is a free drop-in breastfeeding group staffed by lactation professionals. Research shows that breastfed babies are at a lower risk for obesity.

Choose Health, an effort in Staples, is getting healthier foods to families that are struggling to put nutritious food on the table. Choose Health links those in need with fresh, healthy produce and tools to increase knowledge about nutrition and cooking. Health4Life, the SHIP grantee in Todd, Wadena and Morrison counties, has assisted in coordinating the Choose Health program, where Lakewood Health System prescribes community-supported agriculture (CSA) with local farmers to patients who report having trouble getting healthy foods.

In September, the CDC also reported that Minnesota's adult obesity rate saw a statistically significant drop between 2014 and 2015, from 27.6 percent in 2014 to 26.1 percent in 2015. Minnesota was the only state in the region, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa, to succeed in keeping its obesity rates firmly below 30 percent. According to data released today by CDC, neighboring states’ adult rates ranged from 30.7 to 32.1 percent.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications