The Maryland WIC 5 A Day promotion program pilot study: Rationale, results, and lessons learned
Although the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves approximately 6.5 million participants nationwide, little research has been conducted to assess the effectiveness of health promotion programs aimed at the prevention of chronic diseases among its participants. Characteristics of the WIC program and the population it serves present numerous challenges to successfully implementing such initiatives. This National Cancer Institute-funded study seeks to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among women enrolled in WIC and women whose children are enrolled in WIC in Maryland. Key behavioral messages, motivators, and strategies tailored to the target population were identified first. The project team then developed a multifaceted intervention program. To assess its effectiveness and to learn about potential logistical problems prior to initiating a large-scale intervention program, we conducted a pilot study in two intervention sites and one control site. The pilot study demonstrated problems in client recruitment and participation. Both intervention sites showed small increases in fruit and vegetable consumption that were not statistically significant. Numerous lessons were learned, demonstrating the utility of conducting such a study prior to implementing a full-scale intervention.