Congrats to our Women Infant & Children’s program who did some research and implemented some simple policy changes that reduced the consumption of 7 Billion calories annually in AZ. How? After we did a little research, we came up with a way to change our WIC policy… convincing people to replace whole milk with 1% or fat free milk (for kids over 2). The policy change reduced fat by nearly 900 million grams and calorie intake by more than 7 Billion per year. Let’s take a look behind the scene.
A few years ago the Arizona Nutrition Network did some research on milk preferences among our WIC recipients. We found that folks thought lower fat equals lower nutritional value- which is why they didn’t buy low fat milk. Next, we developed a social marketing campaign to encourage Arizonans to “Go Low, All the goodness without the fat” and drink 1% or skim milk. The Arizona WIC program promoted the messages in our WIC clinics… and the “Go Low” social marketing campaign improved the success of the policy change in WIC. The result- 7 Billion fewer fat calories are being consumed by our WIC recipients every year.
Now for the sequel. A couple of years ago we began encouraging WIC participants to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and grocers with their vouchers. Knowing how successful the “Go Low” campaign was, we partnered with the Arizona Nutrition to promote fruits and vegetables… but this time, the policy change didn’t achieve the expected results. We did a little more research and found out that folks wanted frozen and canned fruits and vegetables more than fresh (shelf life)- so we added canned and frozen fruits and veggies to our list of foods families can buy in WIC. In the first 3 months we had a huge increase in the purchase of fruits and vegetables. WIC participants are now purchasing $1M of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables monthly.
So what did we learn in all this policy change? Number 1- it’s critical to do research to guide your public health interventions and to measure results to find out whether your interventions are successful, and Number 2- meet your target audience where they are, and be practical.