Topic, Thesis, Data

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The topic for my paper is Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  I picked this topic because I’m interested in social problems, such as poverty, and steps that are being taken to improve conditions and the effectiveness of these steps.  The WIC was started in 1974 (and was recently revised in 2009) and is dedicated to improving the nutritional status of low-income women, infants, and children below the age of 5.  Some of the positive effects WIC has had on participants are: a reduction in infant mortality and low birth- weight rates, an improvement in the growth of infants nutritionally at-risk, an improvement in children’s diets, a reduction in iron deficiency anemia, and participating children have even shown improvements in intellectual development.  A lot of studies have been done in the past on whether WIC as effective as it claims to be.

            I would like to continue the study of the effectiveness of the program on its participants, hopefully more recently than other studies.  In particular, I’m interested in how WIC affects either the weight of children participants or the nutrient-intake of infants with a focus on iron, since the program is said to reduce iron deficiency anemia, in comparison to non-participating children/infants.  Accessing data has proven to be difficult.  I was told that the Census and SIPP would be great databases to use because they would most likely contain surveys of WIC participants but I can’t seem to find specific WIC participants (something I intend to figure out and could potentially change my thesis as I also wonder how participation affects income mobility).  There is a database titled National Food and Nutrition Survey of WIC Participants (NATFAN) but it requires a username/password to access- I would like to look further into possible access to that.  I have found a report titled “Diet Quality of American Young Children by WIC Participation Status: Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999-2004” that contains a lot of data taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which looks like the most promising data so far.  Here’s the link- http://www.fns.usda.gov/Ora/menu/Published/WIC/FILES/NHANES-WIC.pdf.  It contains various charts on nutrient- intake and one particular chart on the distribution of body weight, comparing WIC children and nonparticipating children (but only until 2004).  I’ve also found data on the number of participants and the cost of the program each year since it was established- http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/wisummary.htm  So, I need some guidance on navigating through the large databases, but I know the data is there and what I have now is definitely a solid start but I would like to improve it by accessing these databases and obtaining more up-to-date data.

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4 responses »

  1. Kelly, It sounds like you have a good grasp of what you want to do with this question but data seems to be your big issue. After briefly researching possible data sources I saw many states/ regions have their own websites for the WIC program. Would it be possible to focus on a few regions and use their internal data? (some seemed to provide data on their website others did not).
    But if you would like to remain on a national level I did come across a site that could be helpful.
    http://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/wicmain.htm : this website seemed helpful in giving you the participation rate numbers of each state, but nothing I saw about the nutritional benefits.
    Other than that I would recommend looking at past academic research and looking to see where their sources come from.

    • Yeah, I spent a lot of time on that one site but I’m not sure I could really do much with just the participation rates. Most of the past studies I’ve looked at used data that I can’t access, but I’m still going to look through them and see if I can find something usable. But I hadn’t considered just focusing on a select few regions, that’s a good idea. I’ll have to look into data and see if I can access enough- thanks for the suggestion!

  2. I agree with Andrew, data is your biggest issue. Once you are able to find it I think that you will have no more issues with the topic, You obviously have a grasp on the topic and are well informed on the subject. I’m sure the databases we went over in class will have more data on your topic

  3. Kelly, it sounds like Matt and Andy helped you out. You might also consider looking at general government assistance as opposed to the very specific WIC program. Keep looking.

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