Good Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days to Reduce NCDs

Around the world, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes make up 70% of health-related deaths, posing the largest threat to people’s health globally and costing the global economy trillions of dollars.

Unhealthy diets & sedentary lifestyles are consistently linked to a rise in obesity & diet-related NCDs, and ultimately, premature death – and it’s not just adults that are affected by these conditions. In 2018, an estimated 38 million children under age five were overweight and at greater risk of developing a diet-related non-communicable disease.

More than two-thirds of overweight children live in low and middle-income countries, and many of these countries are dealing with rising levels of obesity alongside other forms of malnutrition, including the crises of childhood stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies. The coexistence of overweight/obesity and undernutrition, known as a “double burden of malnutrition,” can occur in the same country, family and even in the same person.

In fact, being malnourished as a child increases the risk of obesity and diet-related NCDs later in life.

An established – and growing – body of evidence shows that the 1000-day window between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday, is a particularly critical period in which how well or how poorly a child is nourished has a profound impact on a child’s health, for the rest of their life.

Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days reduces the risk of malnutrition and chronic, non-communicable diseases.

  • Providing nutrition counseling and health care for women before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of having a malnourished child. Proper nourishment during pregnancy reduces the child’s risk of developing obesity or NCDs later in life. It also helps ensure women gain the appropriate amount of weight and helps prevent gestational diabetes.
  • Promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding gives children the best start to life and can prevent NCDs in both mother and child. The natural biological make-up of breastmilk helps regulate food intake and energy balance and reduce the risk of childhood obesity. Breastfeeding also is shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in women.
  • Ensuring access to healthy, nutritious and age-appropriate foods for young children, after exclusively breastfeeding for six months and as a complement to continued breastfeeding, sets the foundation for a child’s healthy eating habits and lifelong health.

This month, the United Nations General Assembly is hosting a High-Level Meeting on NCDs and 1,000 Days will be joining partners in calling on world leaders to commit to action and investment to reduce NCDs. ENOUGH to childhood obesity and the health risk it entails. It’s time for policymakers to step-up, invest and implement policies that promote a healthy first 1,000 days to help reduce all forms of malnutrition and diet-related NCDs.

Please join us in highlighting the importance of good nutrition in the first 1,000 days by following us on Twitter and Facebook this month in the lead up to the UN High-Level Meeting on NCDs on September 27th.

To learn more about policies that can reduce both undernutrition and overweight and obesity, check out the WHO brief on Double-Duty Actions.