5 Things to Know About the New AJPH Call for Papers

The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH), in collaboration with 1,000 Days, intends to publish a special issue exploring the importance of the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to age 2 for maternal and child nutrition and health in the United States. 

Scheduled for publication in early November 2022, the supplement will highlight how policies, systems, and environments affect the nutrition of mothers and children during the first 1,000 days. It will also summarize the state of the science and research needs related to maternal and child nutrition in the United States. 

Here are 5 things to know about the call for papers:

    1. Papers of interest will focus on nutrition surveillance, interventions, and policy. Topics of interest include maternal diet and nutrition during pregnancy and lactation; infant and young child feeding; community and workplace nutrition supports; and federal, state, local, and organizational policies and programs that support mothers and young children in the 1,000-day window. 
    2. Some papers may not be relevant. Papers of interest will approach the topics above through a public health lens; clinical or treatment studies are not relevant for this series. Papers may (but are not required to) explore lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic response, but results should be relevant beyond the current pandemic.
    3. CDC Director Dr. Ruth Petersen is the guest editor. Dr. Petersen, MD, MPH, is the Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) and brings a breadth of experience and leadership from multiple settings including health care, local and state health departments, national advisory groups, academic settings, the private sector, and global health platforms.  
    4. Detailed instructions on manuscript preparation and formatting can be found on the AJPH website. We recommend you review the instructions for authors, including specific guidelines for each type of manuscript (systematic reviews, research articles, opinion editorials, etc.). Manuscripts must be submitted to AJPH by March 1, 2022 via the online submission system
    5. All articles in this special issue will be open access, thanks to the generous support of the Pritzker Children’s Initiative. (1,000 Days and PCI are actively seeking additional funders for this opportunity. Contact Blythe Thomas,, for more information about supporting this important effort.)

View the full call for papers for complete instructions for submission. For additional information, please contact guest editor Dr. Ruth Petersen ( 

Please consider submitting your work and sharing this opportunity with your network!

1,000 Days Statement on Build Back Better

On behalf of 1,000 Days, I would like to express my deep disappointment at the news that paid family and medical leave has been left out of the Build Back Better package. President Biden called for a “once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children,” and in many ways the package delivers on that promise. Historic investments in child care and the care infrastructure, children’s access to nutritious foods, health coverage, and the Child Tax Credit will be transformative for our nation’s families. 

However, as it currently stands, millions of families will not have the opportunity to benefit from the promise of paid leave: the opportunity to care for themselves and their loved ones, to bond with a new child, to spend precious moments with a gravely ill family member, or to recover from their own serious illness. As the past 18 months have made all too clear, paid leave is a public health imperative. At 1,000 Days, we know that access to paid leave is crucial to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening our economy, supporting workers, improving maternal and child health outcomes and reducing disparities, and building a better future for American families. 

This must be the year we pass paid leave. We will continue to fight alongside our partners to ensure that all workers and all families in the United States have access to comprehensive, equitable paid family and medical leave.

Blythe Thomas
Initiative Director
1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions

1,000 Days Statement on Ways and Means Committee Markup

On behalf of 1,000 Days, I would like to commend Chairman Richard Neal and the Ways and Means Committee on the reporting of Title A of the Build Back Better Act out of Committee this afternoon. This is an historic step towards ensuring that all workers and all families in the United States have access to comprehensive, equitable paid family and medical leave. As the past 18 months have made all too clear, paid leave is a public health imperative. At 1,000 Days, we know that access to paid leave is crucial to recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthening our economy, supporting workers, improving health outcomes and reducing disparities, and building a better future for American families. We are thrilled at this significant progress and look forward to working closely with our partners and allies in Congress to secure paid leave for all.

Blythe Thomas
Initiative Director
1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions

What We’re Watching in Congress – August 2021

August is usually a quiet month on Capitol Hill, as lawmakers return to their states and districts for the summer work period. But this month has seen a flurry of activities on a number of priorities central to the wellbeing of families in the 1,000-day window. Central among these is progress towards the passage of a $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, comprising the majority of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. While there is much work to be done before these provisions are finalized, this is exciting progress towards the “once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children” that President Biden has called for. The team at 1,000 Days will continue to monitor this process and work closely with partners and lawmakers to advance priorities to improve the health and wellbeing of birthing people, young children, and their families.

Last week, the Senate voted to advance both a bipartisan “hard infrastructure” package and a budget resolution that marks the first step towards a sweeping, $3.5 trillion investment in American jobs and families. Shortly after, House Democratic leadership announced that they would interrupt their regular August district work period to vote on the budget resolution and begin working on the underlying details on that package. Many specifics have yet to be determined, but here is what the package is expected to include to support moms, babies, and their families–

  • Investments in maternal health and health equity
    • Key provisions of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus
    • Extension of postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 1 year
    • Efforts to address the Medicaid coverage gap
  • Establishment of the first national paid family and medical leave program
  • Extension of the expanded Child Tax Credit
  • Investments in child care and universal pre-K
  • Additional funding for child nutrition programs
  • And much, much more…

Right now, lawmakers in the House and Senate are working to finalize the details of these provisions. There is a long path forward before this bill can be signed into law, with many hurdles to clear, but if passed, this will be the largest investment in American families in a lifetime. 1,000 Days will continue working to build support for these important programs and to ensure that the voices of moms, babies, and their families are heard and considered as this legislation moves forward.

1,000 Days statement on Biden Administration FY22 Discretionary Budget Request

“Last Friday, the Biden Administration released their first budget proposal, building on President Biden’s call to make a “once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children.” The proposal includes significant funding for several 1,000 Days’ key policy priorities, including:

  • $225 billion over 10 years for a new, comprehensive, universal paid family and medical leave program
  • $6.7 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), including $100 million for technology modernization
  • $3 billion over 10 years to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity and to address racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes, including investments in Maternal Mortality Review Committees, rural maternity programs, and implicit bias training for healthcare providers
  • $150 million for international maternal and child nutrition assistance, including support for exclusive breastfeeding, diet quality and diversification, and delivery of nutrition services

“These investments and many more outlined in the President’s budget request will be critical to helping families in the United States and around the world recover from the pandemic. This crisis has only exacerbated existing inequities and we are encouraged by the Administration’s ambitious vision. 1,000 Days looks forward to working with the Administration and partners in Congress to advance and strengthen this proposal.”

Statement on the American Jobs Plan

1,000 Days is pleased to see the Biden-Harris Administration’s proposal to ensure access to clean, safe drinking water as announced in the American Jobs Plan this week. The plan invests $111 billion to improve water infrastructure, including eliminating 100% of lead pipes and service lines and monitoring and remediating PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in our drinking water systems. 

Families in the 1,000-day window are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of unsafe drinking water. There is no safe level of lead exposure for children, but an estimated six to 10 million homes across the country still receive drinking water through lead pipes and service lines. Lead exposure can cause serious, permanent damage to children’s developing brains and cause learning, behavior, and hearing problems. Infants and young children are especially likely to be exposed to lead – and the risk of lead poisoning falls disproportionately on children of color. In fact, Black children are nearly three times as likely as white children to have elevated blood-lead levels.  

Additionally, PFAS are harmful to both pregnant women and their developing babies. Prenatal exposure to these widely used industrial chemicals can disrupt metabolism and immunity, which may cause lasting effects on both mom and baby – from a higher risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia during pregnancy to a child’s increased risk of obesity and infections. 

No family should have to worry about harmful exposures through their drinking water. Access to clean, safe drinking water is a basic but critical part of a healthy first 1,000 days – whether it’s as a source of hydration during pregnancy and breastfeeding, or as a source of nourishment for babies who consume infant formula. 

The Biden-Harris Administration’s investment is a critical step to ensuring mothers and babies are safe and healthy during and after the 1,000-day window. But, we know that the needs of mothers, babies, and families in the United States go far beyond what is included in the American Jobs Plan. At 1,000 Days, we look forward to the next portion of the Administration’s infrastructure package: the American Families Plan. A full recovery cannot occur without a permanent paid leave program and paid sick days, continued investments in WIC, further access to postpartum health care via Medicaid, and an extension of the increased Child Tax Credit.

Big News! First-ever Dietary Guidelines for Moms and Babies Released Today

Today the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) released the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Updated every five years, the Dietary Guidelines provide science-based advice on what to eat and drink to promote health, help reduce risk of chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs. 

For the first time ever, this newest edition of the guidelines provides advice by life stage, including specific recommendations for infants, toddlers, and pregnant and lactating women in the first 1,000 days. 

The Dietary Guidelines, 2020-2025 encourages everyone to “make every bite count” by choosing foods that are full of nutrients. This includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy or dairy alternatives, and protein foods. It also includes the following key recommendations for moms and babies in the first 1,000 days:

At 1,000 Days, we know that nutrition is critical to the health and well-being of moms and babies. The first 1,000 days are a time of tremendous potential and enormous vulnerability. The nourishment moms and babies receive during this time has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and thrive. The new guidance provides parents and caregivers with the evidence-based information they need to give their children the best chance to lead healthy, prosperous lives that are free of preventable chronic disease. The recommendations will also inform federal nutrition programs that reach young children and their families, as well as serve as an important reference point for physicians, nutrition counselors, and early childcare providers.

We are also pleased to see the Dietary Guidelines discuss systems, policy, and environmental changes that are needed to ensure all families can meet their breastfeeding goals and access healthy diets. The Dietary Guidelines calls for removing barriers such as limited access to (paid) family leave policies and inadequate breastfeeding support at home or at work. It also highlights the importance of WIC, SNAP, and other government programs that provide crucial supports for families dealing with food insecurity.  

We applaud USDA and HHS for their efforts leading up to the release of this landmark document at the end of a year marked by a global pandemic. 1,000 Days looks forward to working with USDA and HHS to communicate the Dietary Guidelines, 2020-2025 to diverse audiences of parents, caregivers, and professionals and to ensure that future editions of the guidelines continue to build upon the important foundation released today.

For more information about the Dietary Guidelines, 2020-2025, visit and  


Disparate Impacts of COVID-19 Through the 1,000-Day Lens

It has been a year like no other, but we at 1,000 Days believe hope is on the horizon. In the United States, mask-wearing is becoming the norm and COVID-19 vaccination campaigns have begun among health care workers and at nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Congress passed an urgently-needed coronavirus relief package, and the incoming Administration will seek further investments in our nation’s families in the new year. We have hope.

Yet, families across America continue to struggle – and some are harder hit than others. 

This month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new resource about racial and ethnic health disparities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The resource examines how underlying health and social inequities put many racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick, having more severe illness, and dying from COVID-19. Social determinants of health, which are conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality-of life-risks and outcomes – as well as the chronic stress that comes from racism – contribute to these disparities. Additionally, the CDC resource explains how COVID-19 mitigation strategies, such as stay-home orders and business closures, can have unintended consequences that put some populations at risk. Minority groups are experiencing higher rates of job loss, food insecurity, housing instability, and disruptions in preventive healthcare services. 

The pandemic has been especially difficult for women, including those in the 1,000-day window. In November, the CDC confirmed that pregnant women are at increased risk of developing serious illness or dying as a result of COVID-19 – and research in Philadelphia shows that Black and Hispanic pregnant women are five times as likely as white and Asian women to have been exposed to the virus. Working women are also bearing the brunt of the current economic crisis. It’s a perfect storm: on the one hand, the crisis has affected industries that employ more women than men (restaurants and other retail establishments, hospitality, and health care), and on the other hand, shuttered daycares and schools make it difficult to keep working. In fact, of the 1.1 million people who dropped out of the labor force in September, 80% were women. Women are on the frontlines of the pandemic, and too many are not receiving the support they need to thrive. 

This is why 1,000 Days has been fighting – and will continue to fight – for policies and programs that allow all women, children, and families to be healthy and thrive. This includes access to paid leave provisions to care for themselves and their loved ones as the number of coronavirus cases continues to spike. Families must also have access to quality and affordable healthcare and the support of nutrition programs like WIC and SNAP. 

The CDC states: “To stop the spread of COVID-19, we need to ensure resources are equitably available for everyone to maintain physical and mental health.” We stand ready with our community to fight for the opportunities that provide all people a chance to live a healthy life and especially build toward a more equitable society in which every family can have a safe and healthy first 1,000 days and beyond.

1,000 Days, Bread for the World and CARE Statement to the Candidates for Federal Office

Now more than ever, the political parties and candidates for office must focus on highly effective, science-based solutions to heal a sick country, and must make the difficult decisions to lift up the strategies with the highest return on investment. We have demonstrated that the best bet for investments that will show immediate impact, as well as future growth and prosperity, is one game-changing moment: the 1,000-day window. 

The first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s 2nd birthday are a time of tremendous potential and enormous vulnerability. Research in the fields of neuroscience, biology and early childhood development provide powerful insights into how nutrition, relationships, and environments in this window shapes future outcomes. It is why several of the world’s leading economists have called for greater investments in the nutrition and well-being of mothers. With millions more people facing economic crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, now is the time to ensure moms and babies have what they need to thrive – so that we all may thrive, too. 

Specifically, we call on the candidates to include the following policies that:

  • Strengthen and improve federal nutrition programs for all moms and babies who need them;
  • Secure federal paid family and medical leave, enhancing millions of lives;
  • Provide all moms and their young children access to quality, comprehensive health care;
  • Create the environments for all moms to meet their breastfeeding goals; and
  • Invest in the nutrition and well-being of mothers, infants and young children around the world, to curb severe malnutrition and avoid preventable child deaths.

The right investments, the right returns.

From India to Indiana, Kenya to Kentucky, mothers and children everywhere need good nutrition and nurturing care in the first 1,000 days in order to thrive.

Yet too many women and children in the U.S. and throughout the world do not get the food, health care or support they need during this pivotal moment that sets the foundation for all the days that follow. The consequences are often devastating. Globally, hundreds of millions of young children fail to reach their developmental potential, while millions more die every year as a result of malnutrition.

In the U.S., as in many other parts of the world, there are profound health disparities that contribute to unacceptably high maternal and infant mortality rates. And when we fail to nourish strong beginnings, we all feel the consequences—from persistent poverty and worsening inequality, to higher health care costs and weaker economies.

While the roots of malnutrition, disease, stunted development and inequality are often found in the first 1,000 days, so is the opportunity to build healthier and more equitable futures for children, women, their families and societies.

The time is now.

1,000 Days, Bread for the World and CARE, call on the candidates to include in the Party Platform the following policies and programs:

Invest in Federal Nutrition Programs

Too many moms and babies in the U.S. cannot access good nutrition. One out of six households with children under age 6 is food insecure, and one in five infants and toddlers under age 2 lives in poverty. Sadly, these numbers are on the rise as families struggle to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, and families of color, low-income families, and single-parent households are particularly at risk. Federal nutrition programs play a critical role in helping all families get the nutrition and support they need to thrive, especially during times of hardship.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to help protect families against food insecurity. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support and health care referrals to low-income women who are pregnant or postpartum, infants and children under age 5. Investments in these programs must be protected and expanded to help ensure that all families in America can thrive. 

Research shows that SNAP is effective in reducing food insecurity and leads to more regular access to food. It leads to improved birthweights, lower risks of developmental delays and better health, and it significantly reduces child poverty. Furthermore, the benefits of SNAP are long-lasting: when young children have access to SNAP, they have better health and improved economic self-sufficiency as adults.

WIC is one of the nation’s most successful and cost-effective nutrition intervention programs.

Research has shown that WIC reduces preterm and low birthweight births; reduces fetal and infant deaths; improves diet quality and nutrient status; increases access to prenatal care in early pregnancy; and saves health care costs.

The Party Platform must affirm its commitment to supporting and strengthening federal nutrition programs, including SNAP and WIC.

Support Paid Leave

The Policy Platform must include a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy to support optimal child development, improve maternal health, reduce disparities, and enable future generations to live healthier lives.

Unlike in most other countries, in the U.S., parents are often unable to take time off from work to care for a new child, critically ill loved one, or tend to their own medical needs without sacrificing the income they need to support their families. This has profound and lasting impacts on maternal and child health in the United States. Because pregnancy, childbirth and the transition to motherhood can be physically and psychologically demanding, women need time to care for themselves and their health. Paid leave is a critical tool to support healthier pregnancies, better birth outcomes, more successful breastfeeding as well as both physical and mental health in the postpartum period. Additionally, inclusive and comprehensive policies can reduce the inequities in access to paid leave, helping to bridge the racial and ethnic disparities in overall maternal and child health outcomes.

Beyond allowing for physical recovery after childbirth, paid time off from work is essential to providing a strong foundation for mom, baby and their family to thrive. Science tells us that babies’ brains are nourished by time spent with parents and caregivers. Policies that enable parents to spend time nurturing and caring for their babies—particularly in the early weeks after birth and for babies that are born pre-term, low birth weight or with illness—are critical to the healthy cognitive, social, and emotional development of children.

For paid leave to have the kind of impact that will drive improvements to maternal and child health and child development, the policy must: 

  • Provide sufficient time off: Workers need access to a minimum of 12 weeks, but ideally 6 months (24 weeks), of paid leave annually to support the health and wellbeing of moms, children and their families.
  • Cover all employers and all workers: Policies must be inclusive of all workers to ensure they can care for themselves or a loved one. Paid leave must be available to all workers regardless of the size of their employer, the sector they work in, the length of their employment or whether they work full-time, part-time or are self-employed.
  • Ensure equitable economic security now and in the future: Workers should not have to decide between their health or caregiving responsibilities and their job. In addition, workers must retain the right to resume full paid employment after taking leave without fear of discrimination or retaliation. Policies must ensure that taking leave now does not threaten workers’ current or future economic security. 
  • Cover medical and family caregiving needs comprehensively: Any plan should be available for the full range of personal medical and family caregiving needs, such as those already established by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Support Pregnant and Postpartum Women in the Workforce

The Party Platform should include protections for pregnant workers and ensure that they cannot be discriminated or retaliated against for seeking appropriate accommodations.

The care and support a woman receives during her pregnancy has a profound impact on her health and on her child’s health. However, too many women—particularly low-income women and those who work in physically demanding occupations—are put in the impossible position of having to risk their health and their pregnancy in order to continue working so they can pay their bills and put food on the table. When workers are unable to receive necessary accommodations at work or are obligated to forgo their salary during pregnancy, the risk of pregnancy complications increases. Similarly, when pregnant women are pushed out of the workforce, their financial well-being and access to employer-provided health insurance and other benefits are compromised. This can have a long-term impact on a mother’s health and that of her child. 

There is bipartisan support for protections for pregnant workers and we strongly encourage the Party Platform to include a national standard ensuring these protections.

Support Access to Quality, Comprehensive Health Care

The Party Platform should include the mandatory extension of Medicaid from 60-days to 1 year following the birth of a child and authorize coverage of services provided by lactation consultants to focus on the needs and concerns related to breastfeeding. Additionally, coverage must be comprehensive and not limited to pregnancy-related care. This will ensure that women can maintain their insurance and choice of health care providers in order to access their postpartum services.

The protections and support for women must extend beyond pregnancy as significant research has shown the lifelong impacts of co-morbidities during childbirth. Postpartum health care is an opportunity to assess a woman’s physical recovery from pregnancy and childbirth and to address: chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension; mental health status, including postpartum depression; and family planning. It is a time to provide support and services that she needs, including lactation support. In order for a child to thrive during their first 1,000 days, they need their mother to be supported in her recovery during this period, too. 

Invest in Telehealth & Implicit Bias Training to Improve Maternal Health Crisis

The Party Platform must comprehensively address the maternal health crisis in America to reduce the number of pregnancy-related deaths among Black women.  Too many Black women do not make it to the postpartum period and many more will never see the 1,000-day window as they are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than White women.  

Unlike many other health disparities, Black maternal mortality cuts across zip codes impacting all socio-economic statuses.  Studies have found that implicit bias is one of the main drivers of the unintentional deaths of which 60 percent are preventable, according to the CDC.  Research shows that Black women receive a lower quality of care than White women and that they are treated differently even when they present with the same symptoms, receiving fewer diagnostic and therapeutic interventions and less pain medication, too, even following cesarean deliveries.  In congruence with their peers, Black women should receive health care that is culturally competent and of the highest quality.  Investments in implicit bias training for medical practitioners would help to identify and address this pervasive issue in health care, which would improve patient-provider interactions, health communication and, ultimately, health outcomes.  

Additionally, investment in telehealth would reduce maternal mortality by expanding access to care in underserved areas with high rates of maternal mortality and severe maternal morbidity.  Almost 65,000 Black women die from pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes each year.  These near-misses have lifelong consequences for women’s health, resulting in higher utilization of health services, higher direct medical costs and the need for long-term rehabilitation, including mental health services.  Telehealth could have a particular impact by expanding remote patient monitoring throughout a woman’s pregnancy and during the critical postpartum period.  

Invest in Global Nutrition

The party platform should prioritize global nutrition as a key component of its global health strategy and increase funding for the nutrition sub-account within the global health account at USAID. Severe malnutrition is the number one killer of kids under age 5, killing more children every year than AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis combined and afflicting many of those children who survive with lifelong illness and impaired cognitive development. Around the world, leading scientists and economists have consistently demonstrated that global nutrition interventions are some of the most successful, cost-effective, and scalable development investments, yielding up to $35 in economic returns for every $1 the U.S. spends. 

Yet, despite these strong incentives, nutrition remains drastically underfunded, receiving less than 1% of official development assistance funding. Severe malnutrition stunts potential and wastes lives, but it does not have to. Scaling up proven nutrition interventions will allow children around the world to escape these preventable deaths.

Malnutrition has many root causes, including poverty, lack of education, erratic seasonal crop cycles, climate change, women’s inequality, and poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. As the world works to tackle these major challenges, which will help end child malnutrition in the long-term, there are four essential actions the U.S. can take now to prevent children from dying of severe malnutrition:

  • Supply all pregnant women with prenatal vitamins, especially multiple-micronutrient supplements (MMS);
  • Support breastfeeding mothers through one-to-one and group breastfeeding counseling;
  • Continue bi-annual Vitamin A Supplementation, especially in conjunction with large-scale vaccination campaigns;  
  • Expand coverage of specialized foods for treatment including by prepositioning Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) in vulnerable communities in anticipation of a dramatic rise in cases of wasting as a result of COVID-19. 

The need is greater as we face a global pandemic.

Today, we are learning how COVID-19 disproportionately impacts women, girls and marginalized populations in the U.S. and around the world. Along with staggering mortality rates, the pandemic has led to soaring unemployment, giving rise to a new population at risk. Meanwhile, low-wage workers continue to serve their communities at the “new frontlines” of food service, home health aides, for example – putting themselves at risk without the guarantee of paid leave or health benefits.

In countries that offer more comprehensive support for families — like Germany, France, Canada and Sweden — a significantly larger proportion of women are in the labor force. Yet, in the United States, parents are often forced to choose between taking time off from work to care for their young children and earning the income they need to support their families. In fact, only a small minority of private sector workers in the U.S. — typically those who work in higher paid jobs — have access to paid leave. This means that many women return to work too soon after giving birth, putting their health and that of their infant at risk. Without a mandate for U.S. employers to offer paid leave, 81% of mothers receive no paid time off to care for their newborn child

As the world focuses on the containment of COVID-19, urgent action is needed to avoid the long-term and large-scale impacts on malnutrition and preventable deaths from the secondary effects of this crisis. We have long understood that increased undernutrition compromises immune systems, making bodies vulnerable to virus attacks and impeding recovery. People living with pre-existing medical conditions, and suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers), appear to be more at risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms and have higher mortality rate than other populations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has yet to be reported at scale in some of the most impoverished parts of the world. Government leaders are beginning to sound the alarm on the fragility of health systems, food systems, and economies in many low- and middle-income countries, which already face high rates of severe malnutrition.  COVID-19 will put vulnerable children and families at even greater risk of falling into the vicious intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, ill health, and poverty. For children in the first 1,000 days, even a short bout of malnutrition can have devastating lifelong consequences. The secondary consequences of this pandemic risk the lives and potential of an entire generation. 

In the short term, employment uncertainty, closing of schools, closing of borders, periods of isolation, and widespread sickness has implications for millions of people vulnerable to food poverty. As governments are responding to this health crisis, multi-sectoral nutrition and food security programs must be safeguarded to protect children and families vulnerable to malnutrition. Not only do we want to prevent a protracted nutrition crisis, but nutrition itself will play a role in recovery to help increase immunity and resiliency.

Health Experts Share Much-Anticipated Recommendations for New Dietary Guidelines

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released their Scientific Report in advance of the upcoming 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This report represents a systematic review of all data and research analyzed by the DGAC since commencing their work in early 2019 and provides an important preview of the upcoming guidelines.

For the first time, the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans will include specific recommendations for the diets of infants and children from birth to 24 months of age. This inclusion, along with the guidance for pregnant and lactating women, is critical as the 1,000-day window between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday sets the foundation for a child’s long-term health and wellbeing. Access to high quality nutrition during this period is fundamental. 

Today’s Scientific Report includes several important findings on the diets of moms and babies in the 1,000-day window:

  • A woman’s health during her pregnancy is heavily influenced by her pre-pregnancy diet, underlining the importance of developing lifelong healthy eating patterns.
  • A healthy diet during pregnancy reduces the risk for certain pregnancy-related health conditions, like gestational diabetes and hypertensive disorders, and it reduces the risk of preterm birth.
  • Babies who were ever breastfed were found to have reduced risk of overweight and obesity, type 1 diabetes, and asthma
  • No amount of added sugar should be included for a baby’s development
  • Infant and child diets during the 1,000-day window affect their palate and taste for certain food into adulthood.  Children younger than 24-months should avoid consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, both to reduce risk of childhood overweight and to prevent likelihood of greater sugar-sweetened beverage intake later in life.
  • Food insecurity is a persistent and pernicious threat to healthy development, with more than 6 million American children living in households with inconsistent or insufficient access to healthy, affordable food. Black, Latino, and low-income families, as well as families with young children and single-parent households were more likely to be food insecure

The Committee also noted that, due to a dearth of research on the diets of infants and children before the age of 2, they were unable to establish specific dietary recommendations, but did provide several examples of healthy food patterns for babies and toddlers. 

We look forward to the final Dietary Guidelines, expected to be released by HHS and USDA later this year, and continue to encourage the Committee to ensure these guidelines are based on the best, independent data and research. The health of moms, babies, their families, communities and our nation depend on it.