Association between usage of an app to redeem prescribed food benefits and redemption behaviors among the special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children participants: Cross-sectional study

Qi Zhang, Junzhou Zhang, Kayoung Park, Chuanyi Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is one of the most important food assistance programs in the United States, serving 6.4 million low-income, eligible women, infants, and children under 5 years of age in 2019. In the program, participants are prescribed a list of food benefits, which can be redeemed in WIC-authorized stores. However, there are multiple behavioral barriers in the program and the stores that prevent participants from redeeming the benefits fully. Objective: This study aims to examine the relationship between the use of a widely used mobile phone app, WICShopper, and the redemption of the prescribed food packages. Methods: WIC administrative data were obtained from West Virginia for the period January 2019 to January 2020 and included 30,440 WIC households that had received food benefits in that period. The redemption rates of 18 WIC food benefits were compared between app users and nonapp users, that is, those who never used the app in the study period. The use behaviors were defined for the app users, including the number of active use benefit cycles, active benefit cycle rates, number of active use days in the cycle, and proportion rates of daytime use. Panel linear regressions were applied to examine how the redemption rates were related to these behaviors over time. Results: App users consistently had higher average redemption rates than nonapp users; the difference ranged from 3.6% (4.8% relative) for infant formula to 14.3% (40.7% relative) for fish. After controlling for sociodemographics, the coefficients of app use were significantly positive for all benefit categories except for WIC-eligible nutritionals. More active cycles and active days in the cycle were significantly related to redemption rates for all categories, except for frozen juice (coefficient=−0.002, P=.09). Daytime app access was positively associated with redemption rates for most food benefits except only a few, such as infant formula (coefficient=−0.03, P<.001). Conclusions: Use of the WIC app was significantly related to higher redemption rates across food benefits, although the association varied across benefit categories. More active days were positively related to benefit redemptions across food categories, and the app’s daytime use was positively associated with the redemption of most benefit categories. These findings suggest that the WIC app can be an important tool for the promotion of benefit redemption among WIC participants.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20720
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Volume8
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Keywords

  • Benefit redemption
  • EBT
  • Mobile phone
  • Mobile phone app
  • WIC

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