GAO's Review of USDA's National WIC Evaluation Report and Follow-up Issues

T-RCED-90-21: Published: Jan 24, 1990. Publicly Released: Jan 24, 1990.

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GAO discussed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) handling of its assessment of the Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), focusing on USDA: (1) management of the National WIC Evaluation; and (2) research on the program's impact on children. GAO found that: (1) USDA deleted the study's original chapter and executive summaries and replaced them with its compendium of results; (2) the USDA compendium contained errors and misleading statements about some of the data and deleted the study team's overall conclusions, which pointed out the positive effects attributable to the WIC Program; (3) the study took 3.5 years longer and $2 million more to complete than USDA estimated; (4) replacement of the principal investigator, study redesign, unrealistic time frames, prolonged report review, and unforeseen printing problems delayed the study; (5) USDA solicited a follow-up study on the children born to mothers who participated in the study, but prematurely canceled the study after it determined that it did not have enough participation to complete the study, even though research analysts concluded that the study was feasible; and (6) USDA was evaluating the feasibility of conducting a 5- or 6-year follow-up study of a new group of WIC participants that would cost between $16 million and $22 million. GAO believes that USDA should: (1) take steps to keep the study within time and financial constraints; (2) expedite its review process; and (3) ensure that report production and distribution match public interest.

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