Category: News

From Cradle to Career: The Lifelong Impact of Early Nutrition on Minds and Futures

In the intricate dance of human development, the first 1,000 days emerge as a period of unparalleled significance, shaping the destinies of individuals and the key to unlocking potentials that extend far beyond childhood. During this crucial period, nutrition takes center stage, weaving a narrative that profoundly shapes not only the health and well-being of individuals but also the trajectory of entire generations. 

Cognitive Development and IQ

Scientific evidence consistently underscores the foundational role nutrition plays in cognitive development and education, making the profound impact on future generations ever clearer. A child’s brain begins to grow very early on in pregnancy and develops at an astonishing speed. At the 4th week of pregnancy, the brain has an estimated 10,000 cells—by the 24th week, it contains 10 billion. The nutrition that a baby gets from its mother through her diet is the fuel that drives much of this incredible transformation.

The occurrence of malnutrition in the first 1,000 days can hinder brain development, leading to long-term cognitive impairment. Studies show that malnutrition-related delays in cognitive development are associated with up to an 18-point reduction in expected IQ. Additionally, peers. This isn’t a just statistical figure; it translates into tangible consequences for individuals, societies, and economies.

Importantly, these differences persist from adolescence through mid-life, even for those who physically recover from malnutrition. An 18-point reduction in IQ is more than an entire standard deviation (IQ SD = 15 points), equating to a significant impact on an individual’s ability to contribute to society long-term.

Investing in nutrition during the first 1,000 days becomes a strategic move to unlock the full cognitive potential of the next generation. It’s an investment in future creators, inventors, workers, and problem solvers who can drive societal progress and innovation. The implications of this investment ripple across sectors and economies, transcending individual outcomes to shape the very fabric of a nation’s intellectual capital. 

“When you’re well nourished in your first 1,000 days, you grow taller, your brain development is better, you therefore complete more schooling and you add to your country’s economy. Across a population, this means huge shifts in better health and productivity, lifting families out of poverty, and boosting the prosperity of entire communities and nations.”

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Education: The Bridge to a Brighter Tomorrow

Nutrition isn’t just about physical health; it’s a cornerstone of educational success. Well-nourished children not only exhibit better concentration and cognitive abilities but also demonstrate increased attendance and participation in educational activities. The nexus between malnutrition and educational outcomes is a critical aspect that demands our attention. Children who undergo severe malnutrition, especially during the first 1,000 days, complete an average of 4.64 fewer years of schooling than their well-nourished peers. Those who experience severe malnutrition and remain in school often face challenges, performing more poorly and taking longer to complete each grade.

Children who experience stunting, a consequence of malnutrition, score significantly lower on math and English tests, even when controlling for cognitive ability. The impact on learning processes, likely due to reduced focus and micronutrient deficiency, underscores the holistic nature of the challenge. Even mild episodes of malnutrition in utero, even in developed countries, can lead to significantly lower educational performance.

Amidst the intricate tapestry of this narrative lies a pivotal thread on gender equality. Education becomes the key for girls aspiring towards a brighter future, representing one of the most critical investments in building a world where gender equality flourishes. Each additional year of schooling not only enhances a woman’s earnings by 10-20%, but it also acts as a catalyst for achieving financial independence, gradually closing the gender-based earning gap. A stark reality persists today, with over one billion women and girls lacking access to the adequate nutrition essential for their survival and flourishing. Bridging this “gender nutrition gap” becomes not only a matter of nourishing bodies, but also of empowering minds towards a more equitable future.

The Economic Toll of Malnutrition

Malnutrition is not just a health concern; it is an economic imperative. Research from the World Bank reveals a staggering reality – individuals facing malnutrition can lose up to 10 percent of their annual earnings due to reduced education and productivity. More alarmingly, they are 33 percent less likely to escape poverty as adults. This revelation underscores the urgent need for a paradigm shift in our approach to nutrition, viewing it not only as a health intervention but as an economic driver, the key to unlocking the cycle of poverty and the lifelong consequences rooted in malnutrition.

The linkage between nutrition and future development outcomes is profound. Nutrition programming, particularly during the first 1,000 days, becomes the cornerstone for lifelong health, educational attainment, wages, and livelihoods. It is a holistic investment that not only improves individual well-being but also fortifies economies, fosters resilience to global shocks, and builds grey matter infrastructure – that is the infrastructure our children’s bodies and minds need to grow, learn, and thrive.

Investing in nutrition in the first 1,000 days is not just a moral imperative; it is a strategic move to ensure that children reach their educational potential. By addressing the root causes of malnutrition and fostering an environment conducive to learning, we pave the way for a brighter and more educated future generation that can positively impact our society and economies. As we invest in the nutrition of the youngest members of society, we are, in essence, investing in the intellectual capital of our future workforce and leaders.

In conclusion, the first 1,000 days represent a unique and invaluable opportunity to shape the trajectory of individuals, societies, and economies. Nutrition, as the linchpin connecting health, cognitive development, and education, becomes the catalyst for a brighter tomorrow. As we navigate the complexities of global development, let us recognize the transformative power of nourishment in building minds, nurturing futures, and fostering resilience in the face of global challenges. We call on everyone to join us and invest in nutrition.

Understanding Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days: Black Moms and Birthing People

To improve our advocacy and nutrition education efforts, 1,000 Days strove to understand sources of nutrition information during the first 1,000-day window and gaps in culturally relevant communications about healthy diets. Through a combination of qualitative research methods, including surveys and an environmental scan, we listened to over 225 Black pregnant and birthing people about their perceptions of their health, when and how they received nutrition information related to their pregnancy, and their preferred sources of information.

Building Momentum for Nutrition

Nutrition affects every aspect of human development: from children’s performance in school, to our ability to fight off diseases, to a nation’s health, and economic advancement.

The 2021 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition Progress builds on previous research and provides an evidence-based agenda for how the global health and development community can improve the health and nutrition of today’s generation and all the generations ahead. The 2021 Lancet Series on nutrition presents updated information and builds on the 2008 and 2013 Lancet Series to set forth an evidence-based, global agenda for tackling undernutrition.

These critical 1,000 days lay the foundation for all the days that follow. How mothers and children are nourished and cared for during this time profoundly impacts a child’s physical growth, cognitive development, and lifelong health. Improving women’s and girls’ diets, access to nutrition services, and nutrition counseling – before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding – are critical to preventing malnutrition among families and communities everywhere.

Advocating for Nutrition, Maternal and Child Health Funding

From left to right: Dorothy Monza (RESULTS), Stephanie Hodges (1,000 Days), Andrew McNamee (Food for the Hungry), John Goetz (Legislative Correspondent for Sen. Tim Scott), Daren Caughron (Bread for the World)

Each year, there is an appropriations process that determines the budget for the federal government and the programs that it carries out. The President releases a budget, which provides insight into an administration’s priority, but ultimately, it is up to Congress to draft and pass the budget for the federal government each fiscal year. 1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions, raises awareness of this process and engages every year to advocate for robust funding to support and promote maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition.

In partnership with the Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Roundtable (MNCH RT), and representing the 1,000 Days Advocacy Working Group (AWG), 1,000 Days led and attended Hill meetings in both the House and Senate to advocate for funding increases for the Maternal and Child Health Account and the Nutrition account within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). We conducted nearly 40 meetings and secured sign-ons to Dear Colleague letters from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate supporting these funding increases.

In FY23, the nutrition account was funded at $160 million, and the maternal and child health account (MCH) was funded at $910 million. To address the malnutrition crisis and to meet the moment of increased health and nutrition needs, our International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) community is requesting $1.15 billion for the MCH account, which includes $340 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and $300 million for the nutrition account within USAID. 

These additional investments can help close the food and nutrition insecurity gaps and pick up the pace on progress toward ending malnutrition which has slowed over the past 12 years. In 2021, 5 million children under age five died from mainly preventable and treatable diseases, with malnutrition as the underlying cause of roughly half of these deaths. Additionally, 300,000 women die annually of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 

The Nutrition account within USAID supports nutrition programs for women and children, focusing on the 1,000-day window, the time between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. It is crucial to reach children and their caregivers early in life with interventions like breastfeeding support and vitamin A supplementation to prevent malnutrition. When children are malnourished, early detection and access to therapeutic foods can save lives. Severely malnourished children are much more likely to have weakened immune systems and are at risk of permanent physical and mental stunting, which prevents them from reaching their full educational, social, and earning potential. Malnutrition costs the world $3.5 trillion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year. The current global food crisis, fueled by conflict, climate shocks and the threat of a global recession, continues to threaten the lives of women and children globally. Full funding of the nutrition account is critical for saving lives and reaching USAID’s goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths.

As Congress establishes budget levels for FY24, we urge them to include the increased funding levels for USAID and we will continue to advocate for these funding increases. If investments are not made in preventing and treating malnutrition and improving maternal and child health, we will continue to see backsliding of the progress made and lives lost. Now is the time to act to ensure mothers and children have the health and nutrition supports they need within the first 1,000 days and beyond.

 

Lifting Up the Powerful Role of Nutrition for Policymakers and Advocates

Good nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy has a profound impact on the health of both a mother and child. This National Nutrition Month (NNM), and as part of our global #March4Nutrition campaign, 1,000 Days is highlighting some of the nutrition-related regulations and legislation that we support to ensure every child can grow, learn, and thrive. Much of this legislation also shapes the future for mothers, pregnant, birthing and postpartum people. This Spring, we are focused on advocating for regulatory updates, legislation that supports nutrition for families here in the U.S. and around the world, and additional funding to support all these programs. This year’s NNM theme of “Fuel for the Future” highlights the importance of ensuring families are well nourished to support healthy futures.

Updated Regulations for Maternal & Child Nutrition

WIC Food Package Updates

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed several regulatory changes to strengthen nutrition programs and improve maternal and child nutrition. The agency is currently updating the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food packages, that would impact over 6 million WIC participants which include moms, babies, and young children. The updates, which are science-based and align with the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the 2017 National Academies (NASEM) report, increase fruit and vegetable vouchers, promote greater flexibility to accommodate cultural food preferences and dietary needs, strengthen support for breastfeeding, and increase access to under-consumed, nutritious foods, like seafood with lower levels of methylmercury.

Child Nutrition Program Updates

USDA also proposed updated nutrition standards to school meals that would more closely align the standards recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to provide children with nutritious and delicious meals. The proposed updates do include some changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), which serves young children, including those in their 1,000-day window, at childcare. Changes in the CACFP program would support more nutritious meals and snacks by reducing added sugar content and allowing more plant-based meat/meat alternate options.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

While not specific legislation or regulations, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) form the basis of nutrition policy in the U.S. and are a critical component of improving maternal and child nutrition. Co-developed every five years by USDA and the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the basis of the guidelines is a science-based report developed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee (DGAC) which includes nutrition researchers, physicians, and Registered Dietitians. The DGAs have a broad impact ranging from WIC food packages and child nutrition programs to food labeling and nutrition education programs. The guidelines include dietary recommendations for pregnant and lactating people and birth to age 2, which were included for the first time in the 2020-2025 DGA. The next iteration of the guidelines is currently underway as the DGAC is reviewing evidence and drafting conclusion statements which will ultimately lead to dietary recommendations and guidelines for Americans, including mothers, babies, and young children.

2023 Farm Bill

Every five years, Congress reauthorizes the Farm Bill which is a robust, multiyear law that authorizes food and agricultural programs. Although the name may imply that most of the bill is focused on farming and agriculture, nutrition spending makes up an overwhelming majority of the legislation. In 2018, the nutrition title (Title IV) made up about 76% of total Farm Bill spending, and for the 2023 Farm Bill, it is projected to be as much as 85%. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” is authorized in the Farm Bill which is the reason for the large amount of spending for nutrition in the bill. When children have access to SNAP, from birth through early childhood, their risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and other poor health outcomes later in life greatly decreases. Children on SNAP can immediately experience a reduction in food insecurity. As Congress works to reauthorize the 2023 Farm Bill, it is imperative that they ensure families have access to the food and nutrition assistance they need through SNAP benefits as nearly half of all people who participate in SNAP are children.

In addition to domestic nutrition programs, the Farm Bill also reauthorizes international food aid programs in Title III. These programs include Food for Peace Title II, the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program, Food for Progress, and the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust. These programs are primarily focused on improving food security. As Congress works to reauthorize the 2023 Farm Bill, we urge them to further consider how the programs can incorporate nutrition interventions to address both food and nutrition insecurity and prevent malnutrition. Robust funding will be needed to address the current malnutrition crisis and to build resilience in communities globally.

Implementation of the Global Malnutrition Prevention & Treatment Act

In October 2022, the Global Malnutrition Prevention & Treatment Act (GMPTA) was signed into law to bolster the federal government’s efforts to address global malnutrition and build resilience. It authorizes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance targeted interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition around the world while requiring a robust monitoring of interventions to ensure effective use of funding. As USAID works to draft the implementation plan and coordinate efforts, we look forward to working alongside them to ensure all activities address the nutritional needs of families in their first 1,000 days.

Fiscal Year 2024 Appropriations

Addressing nutrition security in the U.S. remains a critical need. 1,000 Days joins the National WIC Association and the broader maternal and child health community in urging funding of $6.35 billion for WIC in FY 2024. This amount will ensure adequate funding to support WIC’s growing caseload and address rising food costs in WIC food categories. We also support increased funding to strengthen FDA’s food safety and nutrition capacity, especially for infants and young children.

While reductions in global mortality rates for women and children are two of the biggest success stories in international development, progress has slowed over the past 12 years. There remain significant gaps that additional investments can help close. In 2021, 5 million children under age five died from mainly preventable and treatable diseases, with malnutrition as the underlying cause of roughly half of these deaths. Additionally, 300,000 women die annually of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. 

As Congress determines funding levels for FY2024, it is critical that funding meets the moment to address the malnutrition crisis. 1,000 Days as part of the 1,000 Days Advocacy Working Group (AWG) and the Maternal, Newborn, Child Health Roundtable (MNCH RT), is requesting $300 million for the nutrition account and $1.15 billion for the maternal and child health (MCH) account within USAID. Malnutrition costs the world $3.5 trillion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year. The current global food crisis, fueled by conflict, climate shocks and the threat of a global recession, continues to threaten the lives of women and children globally. Full funding of the nutrition account is critical for saving lives and reaching USAID’s goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths.

President’s FY2024 Budget Meets the Moment for U.S. Families, Misses the Mark for Foreign Investments in Nutrition

The Biden Administration’s FY 2024 budget proposal includes significant funding for several of 1,000 Days’ domestic key policy priorities. The proposal reflects priorities of the 2022 White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and opportunities identified in the American Journal of Public Health series to unlock the untapped potential of this critical time by closing data gaps, enhancing promising programs, strengthening policies and uniting around this powerful window of growth. It includes:

  • $6.3 billion to fully fund the 6.5 million individuals expected to participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
  • $325 million to establish a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program plus $10 million to help states expand access to paid leave benefits, including creation of a Technical Assistance Hub to share best practices among states.
  • $471 million to support implementation of the White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis to strengthen maternal health initiatives. Additionally, the budget requires all states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for 12 months postpartum, eliminating gaps in health insurance at a critical time.
  • Increased funding for early care and education programs to increase childcare options for more than 16 million young children and lower costs so that parents can afford to send their children to high-quality child care.

While we celebrate increases across domestic nutrition programs, the proposals for global programs missed the mark. We welcome the topline increases for the State Department and USAID, but the Administration’s proposal to provide no increases to current investments in global nutrition and maternal & child health fall short in addressing growing the need. This past week, a report released from UNICEF shed light on how dire the malnutrition crisis is, particularly among adolescent girls and women. The number of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers suffering from acute malnutrition has soared from 5.5 million to 6.9 million – or 25 percent – since 2020 in 12 countries hardest hit by the global food and nutrition crisis. Ensuring children have access to good nutrition when it matters most is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways to create brighter, healthier futures.

As rates of hunger and malnutrition continue to climb around the globe, it was disappointing to see that Global Health accounts within the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) budget for the Nutrition and Maternal & Child Health (MCH) did not receive funding increases in the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget. Within the proposal, the nutrition account is flat funded at $160 million and the MCH account is flat funded at $910 million. The NGO community has called for no less than $300 million for the nutrition account and $1.15 billion for the MCH account. The released budget is world’s apart from these needs-based community asks to address the ongoing health and nutrition crisis.

Ultimately, these funding levels will be decided by Congress and we urge Congress to fund State and Foreign Operations accounts at a level that meets the moment, including $300 million for the Global Health Nutrition account, $1.15 billion for the Maternal and Child Health account.

Optimizing and Safeguarding Women’s Nutrition – Join Us in Building a Shared and Actionable Agenda

Every woman and girl has an innate right to good nutrition, regardless of all else. This is true today, on International Women’s Day, and it is true for every woman and girl every day.

Over the last decade, we have made great strides in addressing maternal and child undernutrition but despite our success, yesterday’s UNICEF report estimates that more than 1 billion women and girls still suffer from undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.  UNICEF also reminds us that the global food and nutrition crisis continues to hit women and girls the hardest – with a rise from 5.5 to 6.9 million pregnant and breastfeeding mothers suffering from acute malnutrition. That is one in four mothers.

The issue of nutrition for women and girls is one of equity. Prioritizing optimal nutrition for all women and girls of all ages produces a productive ripple effect on their communities, nations, and most importantly, opens pathways to greater opportunities for women themselves.

We can acknowledge the pivotal roles women and girls play in ensuring the health and well-being of their families while honoring their individual rights to health and nutrition. We must shift our focus to women and girls as individuals with their own aspirations and dreams ensuring they have access to proper nutrition at every stage of life. To accelerate progress and energize advocates and decision makers, we are co-creating a shared Action Agenda to advance women and girls through optimal nutrition.

The nutrition, maternal child heath, and gender communities and fellow advocates have identified four critical areas for action, underpinned by a call for a global data revolution: healthy diets; care (health and social protection services); gender equality; and a multi-system enabling environments. There is an urgent need to improve girls’ and women’s nutrition, and mobilize leaders and resources to implement policies and programs to strengthen the social and economic empowerment of adolescent girls and women to access good nutrition. Good nutrition is fundamental to every person’s ability to live a healthy, productive life and it’s time for women and girls to reap these benefits.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we call for everyone to support An Action Agenda for A Nourished World by signing up to advocate for impactful action across these four priority areas. We are building an agenda to last, and we are seeking allies. Far greater investment and policy protection is required to optimize and safeguard women and girls’ nutrition. Will you join us? Sign up here to learn more.

Big Wins + Bigger Needs: FY23 Omnibus Important Investments, Policies

Today, Congress passed, and President Biden will sign, the fiscal year 2023 Omnibus. This bill not only funds federal government programs and foreign assistance but also includes important provisions to support maternal and child nutrition globally. We applaud the passage of this bipartisan bill while recognizing there is still work to be done when the new Congress begins in January.

We are thankful for Congress’ support and inclusion of the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the Omnibus. These bipartisan and broadly supported pieces of legislation provide protections for birthing and lactating people to maintain healthy pregnancies, recover safely from childbirth, and return to the workplace while supporting their breastfeeding goals. Their inclusion is a win for families across the country.

While we celebrate the new protections for families, we also are compelled to keep raising our voices for all the provisions that will create the best possible first 1,000 days for pregnant and birthing people, babies and toddlers. While the Omnibus maintains the enhanced WIC fruit and vegetable benefits and establishes a permanent summer EBT program, we believe Congress missed a chance to streamline and modernize access to WIC services and strengthen the Child and Adult Care Food Program by not comprehensively reauthorizing these child nutrition programs.

We are also grateful for the United States commitment to combatting malnutrition globally. While the global nutrition subaccount received a modest increase of $5 million – a step in the right direction. However, we stand by the compelling case that $300 million is needed to meet the moment during the food and nutrition crises too many are experiencing today. We encourage Congress to continue to expand U.S. leadership on global nutrition and supply programs with the necessary funding to meet dire circumstances.

1,000 Days looks forward to a continued partnership with both Congress and the Administration to ensure families all over the globe have a healthy first 1,000 Days.

The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2022 Meets the Moment in Responding to the Global Food & Nutrition Crisis

Good nutrition is essential to combatting food insecurity and is one of the best investments to build resilience in communities and promote health.

On December 23, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2022 (H.R. 8446), a critical bill that helps address the global food and nutrition insecurity crisis we are currently facing. The bill reauthorizes Feed the Future, the United States government interagency initiative that brings together partners to address root causes of poverty and hunger by boosting agriculture-led growth, resilience, and nutrition in countries with the most need and opportunity for improvement. This legislation highlights the importance of nutrition in the 1,000-day window, the time between pregnancy and a baby’s second birthday, by reducing hunger and improving nutrition for mothers and children. When children are well nourished, they can achieve more, a win-win for individuals and communities.

About the Bill

The Global Food Security Reauthorization Act (GFSA) of 2022 comes at a time when we are experiencing serious climate shocks and stressors, global conflict, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Food Programme states that in only two years, the number of people experiencing, or at risk of, acute food insecurity increased from 135 million in 53 countries prior to the pandemic to 345 million in 82 countries today. Additionally, nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are attributable to malnutrition. Given this food and nutrition security crisis, particularly amongst women and children, GFSA meets the moment in responding to the alarming rates of food insecurity and malnutrition.

In addition to reauthorizing Feed the Future through 2028, the bill also requires a whole-of-government strategy be developed to better address food insecurity and includes improving maternal and child nutrition through this strategy. It also requires assessing and reporting on the strategy on an annual basis and improves monitoring and evaluation practices. GFSA also works to build resilience in countries and communities through agricultural productivity, food and nutrition security efforts, and local economies.

Making Progress on the Global Food & Nutrition Crisis

GFSA not only addresses the acute crises we are seeing today but can help to prevent future food and nutrition insecurity crises. The investments and actions outlined in this legislation will better address malnutrition and put a stronger focus on the importance of nutrition, particularly in the 1,000-day window for families around the world.

“With the passing of GFSA, nutrition will be front and center in responding to food insecurity and hunger crises while also being recognized as a key component in preventing malnutrition and strengthening economies,” said Blythe Thomas, 1,000 Days of FHI Solutions Initiative Director.

1,000 Days is proud to have supported this critical legislation and will continually engage with USAID and other relevant agencies as the act is implemented.

New Series in the American Journal of Public Health Identifies 1,000-Day Window as Untapped Potential to Improve Health of Families

Opportunities, Challenges Identified for Pregnant People and Babies 0-2

(WASHINGTON D.C.) Over the last two decades, science has shown that the 1,000-day window, the time between a pregnancy and the baby’s second birthday, is most critical for brain development and when good nutrition has the greatest influence on future health. Today, on the heels of the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in more than 50 years, The American Journal of Public Health released a special series that identifies opportunities to unlock the untapped potential of this critical time by closing data gaps, enhancing promising programs, strengthening policies and uniting around this powerful window of growth.

“Prioritizing the health of babies, younger children, and mothers will reap significant returns on investment, setting the foundation for the health of our nation,” said Ambassador Susan Rice, White House Domestic Policy Advisor, in one of the editorials in the series. “Everyone has a role to play—the private sector; state, local, tribal, and territory governments; civil society; academia; philanthropy; and other partners.”

The 70-page series with more than 15 authors outlines the role of Early Childcare and Education (ECE) settings to strengthen overall support systems for low-income families and influence the healthy growth and development of children; how to improve breastfeeding outcomes without leaving anyone behind; new analysis on COVID’s impact for people who gave birth during the height of the pandemic; investments needed to achieve nutrition security; and new opportunities for pediatricians to better support families in their care with nutrition advice and access.

“This special issue sets the stage for what we know about nutrition in the first 1,000 days in the U.S. and what is needed to move forward. Unfortunately, nutritious foods are not uniformly and equally available to all. This has unique relevance to the first 1,000 days as inequities in childhood growth and development due to poor nutrition can have long-term effects on cognitive development and health throughout that child’s life,” said Dr. Ruth Petersen, MD, MPH, Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), guest editor of the series and an author (R. Petersen).  The series identifies:

  • Gaps in data of nutrition status and eating behaviors through pregnancy, infancy and toddlerhood (H. Hamner), including micronutrient deficiencies such as iron status, which leaves women vulnerable to poor maternal outcomes (M.E. Jefferds).
  • Steps to improve nutrition of pregnant people, including how to realize the potential benefits of breastfeeding so no one is left behind (R. Perez-Escamilla).
  • Impacts of early disparities from historically underserved communities, especially racial disparities that stem from systemic racism in food access, education, housing, health care and employment that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic (S. Bleich).
  • Efforts to counter repeated exposure of marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks (J. Harris),  and address overconsumption of ultra-processed food through government policies (J. Krieger).
  •  Opportunities to leverage federal and state programs and policies, such as ECE funding streams, state licensing regulations, state quality improvement programs, and accrediting organizations to strengthen nutrition security in childcare settings. (C. Dooyema).
  • Actions key sectors can take immediately, including childcare, healthcare and the philanthropic sector, as well as policy recommendations for the U.S. government (B. Thomas).  

“What happens in the first 1,000 days sets the foundation for every day that follows. How well or how poorly mothers and children are nourished and cared for during this time has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive,” said Blythe Thomas, initiative director of 1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions. “Achieving nutrition security during the first 1,000 days will ultimately require multisector collaboration, advocacy, and action to fully support families where they live, learn, work, play, and gather. We invite all to join us in prioritizing and realizing the opportunity presented by this AJPH supplement.”

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