WIC Peer Counseling Program essential for public health
A proposed amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill would eliminate funding for the WIC Peer Counseling Program, an important source of breastfeeding support in communities throughout this country.
“The science clearly shows that peer counselors increase breastfeeding success and this is a key tool in addressing current disparities,” says Jerry Calnen, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
The amendment, proposed by Virginia Foxx, (R-NC), would remove existing funding for the WIC Peer Counseling Program established under former President George W. Bush.
The WIC Program serves families with incomes less than $27,214 for a family of two. WIC serves over four million children, with two-thirds below the poverty line. These families are less likely to initiate breastfeeding, and less likely to continue breastfeeding. By now it is well-documented that peer counseling does make a difference.
Not breastfeeding is associated with substantial health risks for both mother and child. Infants who are not breastfed face increased risks of ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, obesity, diabetes, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome. Among mothers, not breastfeeding is associated with increased risks of type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and heart attacks.
A recent study found that suboptimal breastfeeding rates incur $13 billion in excess health costs each year.
“Disparities in breastfeeding lead to lifelong disease burdens for mothers and children,” Calnen said. “Peer counseling programs to reduce these disparities are essential.”