National WIC Association

In Defense of WIC: WIC Staff Run Tests that are Necessary for Ensuring the Health of Participants

April 19, 2017

You may encounter the following criticism of WIC: WIC staff run tests unnecessarily such as drawing infant blood. Here are some suggestions for how to respond if and when you encounter this claim:

Sample Talking Points:

  • WIC clinics perform finger pokes to assess participants’ iron status. Some clinics also draw blood to screen for lead poisoning.
  • Although the WIC program does not have a specific legislative mandate to screen for childhood lead poisoning, some state WIC agencies conduct counseling, referrals, paper screenings and capillary blood screening.
  • Because homes built prior to 1978 can contain lead paint, WIC appointments serve as an opportunity to screen for lead.
  • Given that much of the nation’s infrastructures and homes still contain lead, WIC serves as a prime opportunity to screen for lead poisoning in children who may not otherwise have the opportunity for screening.
  • The recent crisis in Flint, Michigan, where many children were exposed to water contaminated with lead, clearly demonstrates that lead screening is not an antiquated tool to be disbanded within the United States.
  • The healthcare needs of children participating in both WIC and Medicaid are better met than low-income children not participating in WIC.1

Peer-Reviewed Literature to Corroborate these Points:

1 Buescher A, Horton J, Devaney B, Roholt S, Lenihan A, Whitmore T, and Kotch J. (2003) ‘Child Participation in WIC: Medicaid Costs and Use of Health Care Services’, American Journal of Public Health: vol. 93 no.1: 145–150.

WIC Testimonial Refuting this Claim:

"The WIC health professional noticed that the infant was very pale. His abdomen was very distended and firm. Normally, we do not check a hemoglobin on an infant under 6 months of age. The health professional asked permission from the mother to do a finger stick to check his hemoglobin. The test showed his hemoglobin to be 3.6. Normal for an infant his age is 11.0. After consulting with his family physician, the mother was instructed to take the infant immediately to the emergency room at Children’s Hospital in Dayton. He was diagnosed with a teratoma in his abdomen, given four units of blood and taken to surgery. The teratoma held the remains of hair, nails and tissue that had been his twin that did not develop. The infant is now home and doing well. He is living proof that WIC health professionals in the clinic setting can use their assessment skills and make a huge difference in the lives of the people they serve." WIC Participant, Ohio