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Exploring the Role of Fathers in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program

      Objective

      Evidence suggests that men can play an influential role in improving pregnancy, breastfeeding, and early childhood outcomes. However, the role that programs like the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program play in fostering paternal participation is not known. While men may not be qualified for WIC, their partners and children may benefit from WIC's nutrition subsidies, health screenings, and nutrition education. Therefore, the primary objective of this research was to explore the experiences, expectations and attitudes of men towards WIC, including their exposure to WIC-Education.

      Study Design, Setting, Participants

      This study employed a convergent mixed methods design combining surveys and in-depth interviews. Couples were recruited at WIC offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

      Outcome Measures and Analysis

      Interviews were audio-recoded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed and common themes identified via thematic analysis and verified using NVivo-10 Software.

      Results

      Although this study is ongoing, thus far nine couples have been interviewed (mean age: 32 years; mean number of children: 2). Fathers' experiences were grouped into two primary themes. Emergent themes highlighted the lack of paternal participation, which was exemplified by 78% of men reporting no interaction with WIC (including WIC-Ed). Related sub-themes included coercion fears and WIC office inaccessibility as deterrents to paternal involvement. The second major theme, the need for paternal participation, documented the desires of fathers to improve parenting skills and their knowledge of nutrition in support of their partners and children.

      Conclusions and Implications

      There may be missed opportunities for fostering the male role within WIC programming, particularly WIC-Ed.

      Funding

      None

      Supplementary data