Food Assistance:

The National WIC Evaluation--Reporting and Follow-Up Issues

RCED-90-3: Published: Dec 14, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 25, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) assessment of its Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), focusing on USDA: (1) management of the National WIC Evaluation, intended to estimate the program's impact on participants; and (2) plans for a follow-up study on WIC impact on children.

GAO found that: (1) the evaluation took 3.5 years longer and $2 million more to complete than USDA projected; (2) evaluation delays were caused by such factors as replacement of the principal investigator, study redesign, unrealistic time frames, report review, and unforeseen printing problems; (3) USDA wrote a compendium of results to replace the research team's executive summary after determining that there were discrepancies between the summary and the findings; (4) the compendium analysis did not include conclusions about the generally positive impact of WIC on participants, did not preserve the original study design, used inconsistent and different criteria to summarize study results, improperly aggregated measures of program outcome, and incorrectly reported findings on using therapeutic health services; (5) USDA solicited a study on WIC impact on children's behavioral and cognitive performance, but then withdrew the request after determining that it could not practically complete the study, although research analysts concluded that such a follow-up study was feasible; (6) a feasibility study about examining WIC effects on children's physical and mental development concluded that a 5.5-year longitudinal study costing between $16 million and $22 million could adequately assess WIC impacts; and (7) USDA planned to field-test aspects of the recommended design and alternatives before committing itself to the full research.

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