Lucy Sullivan, Executive Director, 1,000 Days
Last week, 1,000 Days was honored to join with Hope Through Healing Hands and Senator Bill Frist to engage community leaders in Nashville in the effort to improve maternal and child nutrition. With leaders from the faith, business, and academic communities around the table, we examined the issue of poor nutrition around the world and in Tennessee, where one in four children are food-insecure. The gathering of diverse voices—united by their passion to help mothers and children throughout the world—was a unique opportunity to bring greater attention to the issue of poor nutrition early in life and discuss ways that churches, businesses, and individuals can make an impact.
What became clear is that the importance of good nutrition, right from the start, is universal. Whether a baby is born in Nashville, Tennessee, or Nairobi, Kenya, every child needs basic nutritional building blocks to achieve healthy growth and brain development.
Poor nutrition—whether measured as hunger, undernourishment, or obesity—is pervasive throughout the world. Unfortunately, it is also all too pervasive in the US as well.
As a result, poor nutrition is arguably this generation’s largest public health issue. Globally, nearly half of all childhood deaths worldwide are caused by malnutrition and 165 million children are permanently stunted as a result of chronic undernourishment, leaving them unable to reach their full potential to grow, learn and thrive. In the US, food insecurity and the epidemic of obesity are together fueling a burgeoning health crisis. In the US, about a quarter of preschool children ages 2-5 year are overweight or obese.
Ensuring that children get the right nutrition early in life is one of the most basic yet powerful things we can do to ensure healthier and more prosperous societies.
There is strong scientific evidence that points to one moment when the quality of a person’s nutrition can shape the foundation of lifelong health and well-being. It all starts in the first 1,000 days. The 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second year of life is a critical window of opportunity when nutrition serves as the foundational building block for a person’s intellectual development, growth and long-term health. Research shows that a child that is well-nourished early in life is more likely to do better in school, earn more money as an adult and have a lower risk of illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. The effects of good nutrition early in life have been estimated to boost economic prosperity as much as 8 percent in terms of GDP gains.
In this way, improving nutrition for mothers and children during the critical 1,000 day window is one of the most powerful tools we have to unlock greater human and economic potential and help break the cycle of poverty. It is the reason why the 1,000 Days Partnership was formed and includes over 80 partners working to promote greater action and investment in maternal and young child nutrition. While the 1,000 Days partnership has helped galvanize much-needed momentum to improve maternal and child nutrition globally, much remains to be done.
There’s a simple way to get engaged in this conversation. Throughout the month of March, 1,000 Days is hosting an online “March for Nutrition” to raise awareness about the critical role of good nutrition for women and children everywhere. I invite you to join us by sharing your stories and insights on Facebook and Twitter and by following #March4Nutrition.