Improving Diabetes Prevention and Management

Grantee Name

Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Funding Area

Improving Diabetes Prevention and Management

Publication Date

June 2016

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

September 2008 – May 2015

Childhood obesity is a well-documented risk factor for obesity later in life, which in turn is associated with an increased risk in Type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions.

Although the majority of obesity prevention projects are targeted to school-age children, obesity begins much earlier in life. To fill this gap, New York State’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) initiated changes to its program in 2009 to improve health outcomes in young children. Specifically, the changes included revising food packages and strengthening physical activity promotion, peer breast-feeding counseling, and nutrition education efforts.

To evaluate the impact of these initiatives, NYHealth awarded a grant to the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in 2008. The evaluation assessed changes in food consumption and physical activity patterns and health outcomes among children participating in WIC.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Found healthier eating behaviors and lower rates of obesity two years after improvements to the WIC program, including increases in breast-feeding among infants, consumption of low- or non-fat milk among children ages two to five years old,  and consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains among children ages one to five years old;
  • Published key findings in peer-reviewed journals, including the article “Changing WIC Changes What Children Eat” in Obesity;
  • Presented findings at The Obesity Society, Population Association of America, National WIC Association, and American Public Health Association; and
  • Generated interest in designing similar WIC program evaluations in other states.

The New York State WIC program has already begun to incorporate program improvements into its work based on this research. For example:

  • Reinforcing messaging and materials for FitWIC, recommendations to reduce screen time and increase physical activities and get children outside (especially for mothers and caregivers);
  • Adding/strengthening messages about not topping up (adding cereal or sweeteners to an infant’s bottle), reducing sugar-sweetened beverage consumption, and highlighting the impact of very early-feeding practices on obesity and eating habits later on in life;
  • Informing vendors how to handle requests and/or process vouchers for 2% or whole-fat milk, fruits, and vegetables; and
  • Promoting more discussions about ideas/views on infant feeding and addressing parental views on using food as a reward.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) contributed $2 million and the New York State Department of Health contributed $394,000 to this project. The Mailman School of Public Health also leveraged an additional $399,943 from RWJF for a supplemental study, “Profiles of Participation in WIC and Other Healthy Living Programs for Preschoolers in New York.”