This year WIC families face unprecedented and rapidly evolving challenges, and we feel fortunate to be able to talk to them to capture their experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic and related economic hardships have dramatically impacted WIC-participating families in L.A. County. The Los Angeles County WIC survey is a triennial survey of WIC participants conducted every 3 years since 2005. Since its first administration in 2005, the L.A. County WIC survey has allowed us to delve more deeply into the experiences and health conditions of WIC-participating families. With 6,759 Los Angeles County WIC Survey responses completed, we can get a sense of how COVID-19 has impacted the lives of WIC-participating families. Nearly half (45%) of WIC-participating households have at least one parent working fewer hours due to COVID-19, and 35% have at least one parent who has lost a job due to COVID-19. Childcare usage has also changed, with 73% of families who reported using childcare having changed the amount of childcare in response to the pandemic. Please see these and other data presented in our LAC WIC Survey Data Dashboard.
Welcome to the redesigned L.A. County WIC Data website! We are glad you are interested in learning more about WIC and WIC-participating families in L.A. County, and are excited to share our data with you.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has altered how L.A. County WIC agencies provide services, but WIC continues to serve our families remotely. If you are interested in WIC services and/or enrolling in the program, please visit the PHFE WIC website.
Meanwhile, WIC continues to serve hundreds of thousands of families in L.A. County and you can find data and information going back to 2002 on this website. The data is organized by geography for those interested in learning about specific regions or communities, and by topics for those interested in a more in-depth perspective on specific subjects.
While the events of 2020 have brought international attention to the gross disparities in health outcomes in the United States related to racial-ethnic background, decades of evidence demonstrate that these disparities are neither new nor are they limited in scope. The LA County WIC Data Mining Partnership has captured health outcome data by racial-ethnic group since the partnership’s inception in 2002, documenting nearly 20 years of demographic and health information on the hundreds of thousands of WIC participants served by the program. These data present information specific to LA County, and often replicate and support evidence from other sources and from other regions of the US. While these data aren’t able to answer the question of WHY racial-ethnic disparities exist, they clearly demonstrate that disparities start early in life, and they persist.
We must continue to shine a light on disparities in order to inform the need for crucial changes to policies, systems and environments.
We must then demonstrate the impact of these changes on the outcomes of the families WIC serves.
LA County is home to nearly 10 million people representing a rich diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds. Hispanics now make up the majority of the population. Among children <5 years living in low-income households in LA County, 74% are Hispanic, 10% are Black, 6% are White, and 5% are Asian. The low-income population served by WIC in LA County is 81% Hispanic, 7% Black, 4% White and 5% Asian.
Disparities in health outcomes are evident at birth. As shown below rates of low-birthweight (birthweight <5 pounds, 8 ounces) and prematurity (births at <37 weeks gestation) among Black infants are substantially higher than all other racial-ethnic groups. While rates of low birthweight have improved since tracking began in 2002, rates of prematurity among Black infants were higher in 2018 than in all previous years.
Stark differences in breastfeeding then emerge, with rates of any breastfeeding the lowest among Black women and rates of full breastfeeding (without the introduction of infant formula) lowest among Black and Asian women.
Disparities do not disappear with age. By age 4, over 22% of children are obese, defined as having a Body Mass Index greater than the 95th percentile. Here in LA County, we see the burden of early childhood obesity fall disproportionately on children of Hispanic origin.
These disparities exist not only for health outcomes, but across multiple social determinants of health, including health care coverage, household food security and housing stability. In LA County, while health care coverage rates for women have improved in the 10-year period starting in 2008 for nearly all racial-ethnic groups, Spanish-speaking Hispanic women remain substantially less likely have health care coverage.
In 2017, food insecurity, defined as the disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources, affected 40% of LA County WIC households. Details on food insecurity can be found in this brief on our website, and illustrate that the burden of food insecurity is highest among Black families.
Similarly, housing instability and homelessness disproportionately affect Black households. Details about housing instability and homelessness, and varying rates by racial-ethnic background, can be found in this brief on our website.
As we approach 20 years of doing this work in partnership with First 5 LA, the LA County WIC Data Mining Partnership will continue to gather data relevant to the WIC community. We will continue to publish these data on this website. And we will continue to encourage the public to utilize these data and other sources to shine a light on health and racial equity.
This year brings the triennial LA County WIC Survey which will launch in summer 2020 and gather input from over 6500 WIC families. Sample augments of Black and Asian populations are included in order to ensure adequate representation from all families served by WIC.
In the face of COVID-19 and increased awareness and momentum around racial injustice in the US, it is an important year to hear from WIC families about their challenges and their health and wellness. We partner with the WIC community to tell us what they need and how they are doing, and we commit to being good stewards of these data. Please reach out to us with comments, suggestions and ideas.
Sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) are closely linked to an increased risk of childhood obesity and other associated adult chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Our research shows that SSB consumption is substantially lower than a decade ago and that WIC children are less likely to consume sugar-sweetened beverages than other low-income children in Los Angeles County.
In 2017, 40.0% of Los Angeles County WIC households were considered food insecure (low or very low food security). In comparison, only 15.7% of all households with children throughout the United Sates were food insecure in 2017. While the percent of food insecure households in Los Angeles County has fallen since 2011, the rates are over two and a half times higher among lower income WIC participants in Los Angeles County.
Children served by WIC hav a long history of high levels of health care coverage, with only 5-7% of children on WIC without health care coverage over the past decade. This suggests that WIC and health care partners are well connected when it comes to covering young children in low-income families.