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Category: Region

A Much-Needed Win for Moms and Babies: the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act

Photo Credit: USAID

Nutrition plays a foundational role in a child’s development and her country’s ability to prosper. It is why several of the world’s leading economists have called for greater investments in the nutrition and well-being of mothers, babies, and toddlers as a way to create brighter and more prosperous futures for us all.

On September 20, 2022, the Senate passed the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R. 4693) a lifesaving bill that will positively impact tens of millions of women and young children especially in their 1,000-day window, the time between pregnancy and the baby’s second birthday. This is the precious window of opportunity that enables all children to reach their full potential. When children are well nourished, cared for, and protected from disease, violence and toxic stress, they have the best chance at a thriving future. And when children get a strong start, we all benefit.

About the bill

The legislation will support countries in their efforts to prevent the current 2.6 million childhood malnutrition-related deaths worldwide, approximately 150 million children with stunted development, and the 13.6 million children globally under the age of 5 experiencing wasting because they do not have adequate nutrition.

The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like 1,000 Days dedicated to preventing and treating malnutrition, makes nutrition an even higher priority by establishing a five-year strategy to institute precise and targeted reforms in U.S. global nutrition programs. It prioritizes investments in high-impact nutrition programs, such as prenatal vitamins, fortifying foods with essential nutrients (like Vitamin D, iron, and iodine), providing young children with vitamin A supplementation, supporting new mothers to breastfeed, and lifesaving treatment for severely malnourished children.

With this bill, the USAID administrators will be able to scale up the prevention and treatment of global malnutrition and coordinate with relevant public and private partners on these efforts. A Nutrition Leadership Council will be established with representatives from relevant inter- and intra-agency offices to coordinate USAID’s efforts and ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars. The USAID administrators will select priority countries to receive prioritized nutrition assistance and develop clear goals for increasing coverage of high-impact, evidence-based nutrition programs. USAID will be required to submit an annual report to Congress on the progress made toward preventing and treating global malnutrition.

“With the passing of this legislation, we believe the effectiveness of these nutrition programs can be significantly increased with greater strategic vision, accountability, integration, and coordination,” said Blythe Thomas, 1,000 Days of FHI Solutions Initiative Director.

The power to change lives

For example, large-scale vitamin A supplementation has played a major role in decreasing Senegal’s under-five mortality rate from 59 to 37 per 1,000 live births in 5 years. In Nepal through the Suaahara II program, USAID increased the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in supported communities from 45% to 71% in 5 years.

This Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act is an investment in the future of many lives and aims to address malnutrition at the core so that our most vulnerable populations have access to proper nutrition for continued health throughout the lifespan. As Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) stated “investing in global nutrition translates to lives saved.”

With both the House and Senate passage, we enthusiastically await the legislation being signed into law by President Biden.

1,000 days is proud to have supported this lifesaving bill and will continually engage with USAID and our partners as the act is implemented.

New Peer-Reviewed Series Reinforces Powerful 1,000-Day Window in U.S.

The “1,000-day window” as an organizing agenda is a new and relatively unknown concept in the United States despite its established role in global health. But, there is opportunity to unite public health communities through the relevant, compelling framework.

We believe further focus on creating the best conditions for families in their 1,000-day window can change the trajectory of the path we’re on. We seek to present a comprehensive picture of the state of the science, research needs, and a policy agenda for optimal maternal and child health in the United States through a dedicated series in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH).

Three papers were released at 4 p.m. ET September 19, 2022 (and can be found below once published). The full series will be released October 26, 2022 on the AJPH website.

Q&A with Dr. Kofi Essel: AJPH Special Series on Nutrition in the 1,000-Day Window

An interview with Dr. Kofi Essel, Community Pediatrician, Children’s National Hospital

What inspired you to become a pediatrician?

I always found the field of pediatrics to be a very fertile ground.  Families are interested in the wellbeing of their children, doing whatever it takes to improve the health of the next generation.  This made my clinical experiences very positively reinforcing as we engaged in effective, shared decision-making.  In addition, my mentors in my early training were all pediatricians and huge community advocates.  I knew I wanted my career to expand beyond the clinical examination room, and I found the opportunity to advocate for marginalized young children and families to be meaningful and necessary.

Your recently published a paper entitled, “The first 1,000 days: A Missed Opportunity for Pediatricians.” Why are the first 1,000 days important?

The first 1,000 days are a critical stage for young children.  Unfortunately, healthcare is often very reactionary and prioritizes management and treatment of disease.  However, the opportunity to engage young children and families in prevention and take advantage of these early years to optimize brain development and maturation, eating patterns, and healthy family relationships is critical.  We know that children are incredibly vulnerable during these first 1,000 days and small insults to their brain and environment can cause permanent challenges down the line.  Helping families and creating systems that protect and support the most vulnerable is essential for our nation.

Why is this a missed opportunity for pediatricians?

This article gave me a chance to highlight the gaps in nutrition education for future and practicing providers, but also magnify the importance of pediatricians like myself to take the mantle to support our young children and families.  Systemic change is crucial and necessary, but the need for strong counseling and advocacy is always going to be an important piece of the puzzle.  The gap in nutrition education is a disservice to our patients, so I call on our training programs to recognize the essential nature of equipping our current and future pediatricians with the knowledge, tools, and skill to work alongside our patients and through shared decision-making support their desire to optimize the health of their children.  We also must remember that the 21st century clinician must engage using modern tools of integration.  We must seamlessly integrate our clinical work with population health to provide more voices to advocate for the changes needed that our families share with us each and every day.

How does your awareness of nutrition in the 1,000-day window influence who you are as a pediatrician and what you prioritize?

I truly believe nutrition is a powerful tool that I use in my clinical arsenal, and it deserves more attention.  Food is medicine, and I use this medicine with confidence in the same way I have developed confidence in the tried-and-true inhalers, pills, and liquid solutions that my prescriptions help my families acquire.  Unfortunately, as a pediatrician I realize that the access to the medicine of food is often limited for many populations and this inequity leads to worsening disease with its origins beginning in the womb.  As a pediatrician with an awareness of the power of nutrition I am compelled to advocate for programs, tools, and interventions that support equitable access to nutritious foods so that all my families can have a chance from the start.

What needs to happen to support pediatricians with this opportunity?

In order to support pediatricians to use food and nutrition as medicine to impact the first 1,000 days of young children, it is important to keep a few things in mind: 

  1. Incorporate required, high-quality, substantial and practical nutrition education in medical schools and residency training, so that future providers become aware of its necessity.
  2. Ensure curricula that inform current and future providers engage with the tangible social needs that are ubiquitous throughout the country, such as food and nutrition security.  If not integrated into training, we set the stage for worsening inequities by only promoting a message that appears unreachable for many. 
  3. We often focus on the challenges within communities, but we need to recognize their strengths and assets. Pediatricians need support to screen families for food insecurity and must have in place strong, community, clinical-collaborative referral programs to seamlessly connect families from clinics and health systems to meaningful, nutrition-based, local and federal programs as needed and beneficial (i.e. food as medicine, local pantries, community cooking classes, WIC, SNAP, etc).
  4. Systems change requires systemic solutions.  To redirect the health system will require more than a few pediatric advocates on the ground, but rather larger licensing bodies and federal policy to turn the tide, such as the recent bipartisan resolution authored by Congressman McGovern & Burgess in May of 2022 calling for “substantial training in nutrition” for physicians.

Nutrition During the First 1,000 Days in the United States: Current Status and Recommendations for Improvement

Research question: What is the state of nutrition during the 1,000-day window for families in the United States, and what are the opportunities to strengthen federal research and surveillance, programs, and communication and dissemination efforts aimed at improving nutrition and influencing the health and well-being of pregnant people and children?

Why this research was needed: An analytical essay published in The American Journal of Public Health summarizes the current state of nutrition for families in the 1,000-day window in the United States. It further proposes a framework by which nutrition during this period can be improved. These recommendations could inform policymakers, public health and health care communities, and program leaders.

The 1,000-day window is the period between pregnancy and a child’s 2nd birthday and is a critical time in the development of a child. Good nutrition during the first 1,000 days can have a profound impact on the health and well-being of pregnant people and children.

How the research was conducted: The researchers carefully reviewed dietary intake compared with the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, as well as the primary literature covering health, nutrition, and clinical outcomes for pregnant people and children during the 1,000-day window. They then created a high-level summary on the status of nutrition in the United States with focuses on dietary status, health, and outcomes of pregnant people, infants, and toddlers during the 1,000-day window. They also provided a framework for future improvements to research and public health surveillance, programmatic approaches, and communication and dissemination initiatives.

What the research found: The current state of nutrition during the 1,000-day window shows numerous gaps between dietary intake and recommendations, with race and ethnicity disparities across the spectrum. The average intake of total vegetables, fruits, and dairy are below federal recommendations during pregnancy and lactation. At the same time most pregnant and lactating people exceed the thresholds for sugars (70% and 51%), saturated fat (75% and 77%), and sodium (88% and 97%) respectively. In addition, nearly 50% of pregnant persons gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy and 20% gain less.

While it is recommended for infants to be exclusively fed human milk for the first 6 months, data from 2019 revealed that only 24.9% of infants exclusively received human milk through 6 months. Race- and ethnicity-based disparities in human milk feeding remain. Moreover, while it is recommended that complementary foods—those other than human milk or formula—should not be introduced before 4 months, this is the case with about 31.9% of infants.

Children between 12–23 months had total vegetable intake below recommendations while total intake of fruits, grains, and dairy were above recommendations. The average intake of added sugars and sodium were above recommendations.

What the research proposed: The proposed framework to improve nutrition encompassed three aspects—strengthening federal research and surveillance, optimizing programs, and improving communication and dissemination.

Historically, surveys have not included, or have had insufficient samples of pregnant and lactating women, infants and toddlers, and different racial and ethnic groups, leading to gaps in the data. Improving research and surveillance can start with modifying existing systems to improve coverage and data gathering for underrepresented subpopulations.

Programs can be optimized by reducing barriers to participation and reducing inequity among participants to alleviate disparity. Improving participation and engagement in these programs, as well as implementing standards, recommendations, and interventions that affect these programs could improve health and nutrition outcomes.

Scientific nutritional recommendations can be communicated through tailored and specific messages that target key audiences and are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and supplemental recommendations. With the rapidly changing landscape of reaching audiences, implementing agencies and organizations need to collaborate effectively to provide tools and messaging that are culturally and linguistically relevant.

What this research means for key stakeholders: The framework proposed in this paper could inform key stakeholders in the following ways.

For policymakers: Data-gathering objectives to fill the current information gaps can be met by early care and education programs (ECE), clinics implementing the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and federally qualified health care centers that act as sentinel surveillance sites. Implementing standards that affect programs (e.g., licensing standards in ECEs) could improve health and nutrition outcomes. Updating clinical guidelines could also help improve how care is provided. Targeted, audience-specific messaging can help disseminate information to vulnerable groups.

For the public health and health care communities: The electronic health records of underrepresented populations can be used to bolster technological advances in supplementing existing data like feeding decisions, health outcomes, and biologic data. Clinical guidelines and recommendations for programs can be improved by healthcare delivery through tele-health visits, engaging health care support teams, and updating guidelines to improve how and when care is provided. Interventions should be prioritized that have significantly affected health outcomes, can be scaled, reach high-risk populations, reduce inequities, and complement existing federal or state programs. Linguistically and culturally sensitive communication could improve nutrition status in vulnerable populations.

For program leaders: Improving participation and engagement in programs such as WIC, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program could contribute to improving health and nutrition outcomes. The following interventions should be prioritized—those that have significantly affected health outcomes, can be scaled, reach high-risk populations, reduce inequities, and complement existing federal or state programs. Tailored, audience-specific messaging will help communicate and disseminate information on early childhood care and education more effectively.

Key takeaway: Optimal nutrition in the first 1,000 days can have lifelong effects on the health and well-being of pregnant people and children. Working collectively through a framework focused on advancing research and surveillance, programs, and communication and disseminationcould improve health equity, reduce maternal mortality and morbidity, and improve child health outcomes for current and future generations.

*DISCLAIMER: This write-up is derived from a published article and does not reflect the views of the author of the article, their affiliation, or the journal in which this content is published.

Authors/Reference/DOI: Heather C. Hamner, PhD, MS, MPH, Jennifer M. Nelson, MD, MPH, Andrea J. Sharma, PhD, MPH, Maria Elena D. Jefferds, PhD, Carrie Dooyema, MPH, MSN, RN, Rafael Flores-Ayala, DrPH, MApStat, Andrew A. Bremer, MD, PhD, Ashley J. Vargas, PhD, MPH, RDN, Kellie O. Casavale, PhD, RD, Janet M. de Jesus, MS, RD, Eve E. Stoody, PhD, Kelley S. Scanlon, PhD, RD, and Cria G. Perrine, PhD. Improving Nutrition in the First 1000 Days in the United States: A Federal Perspective. American Journal of Public Health. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2022.307028. 2022

Corresponding author contact information: To speak with the author, please contact CDC press office: (404) 639-3286 or media@cdc.gov. To speak with the media team at 1,000 Days, contact Blythe Thomas

Multiple micronutrient supplements versus iron-folic acid supplements and maternal anemia outcomes: an iron dose analysis

Published: February 25, 2022

Publication: MMS in Pregnancy Technical Advisory Group, New York Academy of Sciences

Authors: Filomena Gomes, Rina Agustina, Robert E. Black, Parul Christian, Kathryn G. Dewey, Klaus Kraemer

Background

  • The World Health Organization currently recommends 30 to 60 mg of iron during pregnancy, with higher doses recommended in areas of high maternal anemia
    • Multiple micronutrient supplement (MMS) and iron folic acid (IFA) are both used to deliver iron during pregnancy
  • Comprehensive analysis was conducted examining 19 studies to address concerns related to 30mg of iron through MMS vs. 60mg of iron through IFA, with regard to maternal anemia outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)

Summary

  • Of the 19 studies that were screened for inclusion, 11 were included and were part of the analyses of the three outcomes of interest:
    • Effect of MMS vs. IFA on maternal anemia in the third trimester
    • Effect of MMS vs. IFA on hemoglobin in the third trimester
    • Effect of MMS vs. IFA on iron deficiency anemia in the third trimester
  • When compared to 60 mg of IFA, MMS providing 30 mg of iron did not result in an increased risk of anemia, nor lower levels of hemoglobin, or increased risk of iron deficiency anemia
  • The included studies found that MMS with 30 mg of iron is comparable to IFA with 60 mg of iron with regard to these above-mentioned outcomes
  • MMS is known to have additional benefits in the risk of infant mortality at 6 months, low birthweight, preterm birth, born small-for-gestational age, and reduction of stillbirth. Greater reductions are found among anemic pregnant women so the data suggest that transitioning from IFA with 30 or 60 mg of iron to MMS with 30 mg of iron would not increase the risk of maternal anemia and has additional maternal/child health benefits.

Key Quotes

  • “Because MMS with 30 mg of iron influenced hemoglobin with clinically comparable results to IFA with 60 mg iron, and because MMS significantly improves fetal growth and survival, especially in anemic women, we suggest that policymakers in LMIC proceed with the transition from IFA to MMS.”

Read the original article here

Effect of multiple micronutrient supplements vs iron and folic acid supplements on neonatal mortality: a reanalysis by iron dose

Published: April 25, 2022

Publication: MMS in Pregnancy Technical Advisory Group, New York Academy of Sciences

Authors: Filomena Gomes, Rina Agustina, Robert E. Black, Parul Christian, Kathryn G. Dewey, Klaus Kraemer

Background

  • Multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) are a cost-effective method of delivering iron to a mother and fetus, as well as reducing adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, including anemia
  • However, there are concerns that MMS may increase the risk of neonatal mortality as compared to the use of iron and folic acid supplements (IFA), a similar prenatal vitamin

Summary

  • The study aimed to assess the effect of MMS vs. IFA on neonatal mortality stratified by iron dose in each supplement
  • The study authors updated the neonatal mortality analysis of the 2020 WHO guidelines to calculate the effects of MMS vs. IFA on neonatal mortality in subgroups that provided the same or different amounts of iron – varying amounts of MMS and IFA
  • The study found that there were no significant differences in neonatal mortality between MMS and IFA within any of the subgroups therefore, neonatal mortality did not differ between MMS and IFA regardless of iron dose in either supplement.

Read the original article here

Maternal and child undernutrition: consequences for adult health and human capital

Published: January 2008 

Publication: The Lancet 

Authors: Prof. Cesar G. Victora, M.D., Prof. Linda Adair, Ph.D., Prof. Caroline Fall, D.M., Pedro C Hallal, Ph.D., Prof. Reynaldo Martorell Ph.D., Prof. Linda Richter Ph.D., Prof. Harshpal Singh Sachdev, M.D., for the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group 

Background

  • Previous studies have indicated that pre- and post-natal malnutrition can result in long term changes to the structure and functionality of the brain, impairing memory and learning in childhood and adolescence
    • There has been less emphasis on researching how malnutrition in the first year of life affects intellectual capacity across the lifespan
    • The “Barbados Nutrition Study” assessed IQ and academic skills in adults in Barbados who were born with a moderate birth rate, but experienced moderate to severe malnutrition in their first year of life
    • Individuals were enrolled in a nutritional health intervention program and monitored until they were at least 12 years of age to ensure they were in good health
    • The control group consisted of healthy individuals from the same neighborhoods and classrooms who did not experience malnourishment in their first year of life

Summary

  • Malnutrition in pregnancy and childhood can cause generational health problems 
  • Undernutrition in pregnant mothers and children was strongly associated with… 
    • Shorter adult height 
    • Less schooling 
    • Reduced economic productivity  
    • Lower offspring birthweight in women (birthweight is positively associated with lung function, the incidence of some cancers; undernutrition could be associated with mental illness) 
  • Lower weight and malnutrition in childhood followed by weight gain after two years of age was found to be risk factors for high glucose concentrations, elevated blood pressure and harmful lipid profiles once adult BMI and height were adjusted for, suggesting that rapid postnatal weight gain, after infancy, is linked to these conditions 

Key Quotes: 

  • “Poor fetal growth or stunting in the first 2 years of life leads to irreversible damage, including shorter adult height, lower attained schooling, reduced adult income, and decreased offspring birthweight.” 
  • “Children who are undernourished in the first 2 years of life and who put on weight rapidly later in childhood and in adolescence are at high risk of chronic diseases related to nutrition.” 
  • “We conclude that damage suffered in early life leads to permanent impairment, and might also affect future generations.” 

Read the original article here

Impaired IQ and academic skills in adults who experienced moderate to severe infantile malnutrition: a forty-year study

Published: Nov. 26, 2013

Publication: National Library of Medicine

Authors: Deborah P. Waber, Ph.D., Cyralene P. Bryce, M.D., Jonathan M. Girard, B.A., Miriam Zichlin, B.S., Garrett M. Fitzmaurice, Sc.D., and Janina R. Galler, M.D.

Background

  • Previous studies have indicated that pre- and post-natal malnutrition can result in long term changes to the structure and functionality of the brain, impairing memory and learning in childhood and adolescence
  • There has been less emphasis on researching how malnutrition in the first year of life affects intellectual capacity across the lifespan
  • The “Barbados Nutrition Study” assessed IQ and academic skills in adults in Barbados who were born with a moderate birth rate, but experienced moderate to severe malnutrition in their first year of life
  • Individuals were enrolled in a nutritional health intervention program and monitored until they were at least 12 years of age to ensure they were in good health
  • The control group consisted of healthy individuals from the same neighborhoods and classrooms who did not experience malnourishment in their first year of life

Summary

  • While previously malnourished individuals were able to catch up physically to their healthy peers, their cognitive and behavioral development lagged behind 
  • IQ scores in the intellectual disability range were 9 times more prevalent in the previously malnourished group 
  • Previously malnourished individuals had lower IQs, lower grades in school, and higher rates of attention problems. They also suffered from intellectual disabilities at a higher rate than their healthy peers. 
  • Malnutrition during the first year of life carries risk for significant lifelong functional morbidity.  

Key Facts: 

  • The estimated difference in IQ between the two groups was 15 points when tested as adolescents and 18 points when tested as adults 
  • 26.3 percent of individuals in the previously malnourished group had IQs indicating intellectual disabilities compared to only 3 percent in the control group 

Read the original article here

Long term consequences of early childhood malnutrition

Published: December 2003 

Publication: International Food Policy Research Institution 

Authors: Harold Alderman, John Hoddinott, Bill Kinsey 

Background

  • Researchers studied the preschool nutritional status (measured by height, given age) of children in Zimbabwe who experienced civil unrest and/or a drought before the age of three
  • Civil war and droughts were used as an indicator of malnourishment
  • Nutritional status was then compared to subsequent health and education achievements of these children to show the effects of early-childhood malnutrition on adult outcomes

Summary

  • The study indicates that early childhood malnutrition can lead to continued stunting and lower school achievement in adolescence as compared to peers who experienced no malnutrition or a lesser degree of malnutrition in childhood
  • Children who measured at median height in preschool were more likely to measure at median height by adolescence and have completed an additional 0.7 grades of schooling than students who measured below median height in preschool
  • This study also indicates that improving preschool nutrition can facilitate growth and higher educational achievement in adolescence
  • Because of the negative impact of “shocks” (i.e. war and drought), interventions should focus on mitigating the impact of these shocks.

Read the original article here

A Conversation with Action Against Hunger

Blythe Thomas, Initiative Director at 1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions, recently spoke with Dr. Charles Owubah, CEO of Action Against Hunger, to discuss the vital work of his organization to detect, treat and prevent malnutrition. The two discussed the effects of COVID and climate change on food and nutrition, the role of women farmers in ending malnutrition, and LifePack, an innovative tool to raise money for malnutrition treatment.

Watch the video to learn more.