A recent questionnaire delivered to all 100 counties in North Carolina proves government programs aren't as unbiased as they probably should be. Fifty counties returned the electronic questionnaire, which gave researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill more than enough information to gauge the overall services and breastfeeding support offered by the WIC program in the state. The questionnaire collected social information, including race and breastfeeding (and other) services provided for prenatal and postnatal care.

What died the questionnaire reveal?
When researchers looked at the data provided by each county, a pattern was revealed. Counties with higher Hispanic and white populations were more likely to provide breastfeeding support in a clinical and home setting. Counties with higher African-American populations were less likely to provide such services and the overall number of services provided were less than white and Hispanic dominated areas. 

The US Surgeon General Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding campaign aims to increased the number of women who choose to breastfeed. Not only is breastfeeding cheaper than bottle feeding, the health benefits are widely known and well-support in clinical study. Programs like WIC are designed to support overall health during pregnancy and, subsequently infancy and early childhood. Part of supporting infancy is to offer equal breastfeeding support across all ethnicities. 

Further investigation is needed into the apparent inequality in the WIC program in North Carolina. The questionnaire may eventually be spread to other states to see if the same discrimination is spread across all states. 

What can women do?
If you are currently on WIC and you're not receiving the support or education you need for breastfeeding, contact your case worker and request breastfeeding support. Some WIC agencies offer breastfeeding support, but pregnant women don't know the support exists. You can also contact the Food & Nutrition Service from the USDA. This is the government department responsible for WIC and other similar programs. 

Source: Kelly Evans, Miriam Labbok, and Sheryl W. Abrahams. Breastfeeding Medicine. December 2011, 6(6): 401-406. doi:10.1089/bfm.2010.0086.

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