In September 2010, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech called “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” to address child undernutrition at the United Nations General Assembly Week. One of the most compelling themes in her speech was the pressing need of recognizing nutrition as an invaluable facet of life that starts from the moment of pregnancy. Beginning with pregnancy and through a child’s 2nd birthday, this time period – a child’s first 1,000 days – is critical to the development of children.
Credits to the 1,000 Days Campaign (thousanddays.org).
“Interventions after that second birthday make a difference, but often cannot undo the damage that was done because of the undernutrition during the first 1,000 days. So we can be very targeted with our investments to save and improve the greatest number of lives.” -Hillary Clinton
While some solutions can mitigate the surface issues of a problem, undernutrition is a deeply rooted complex problem that requires solutions allowing time, diligence, access, and resources for an individual to fruitfully gain good health. Without adequate nutrition during the critical 1,000 days, “[undernutrition] can weaken a child’s immune system and make him or her more susceptible to dying from common illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria”. Moreover, according to the 1,000 Days Campaign, “babies who are malnourished in the womb have a higher risk of dying in infancy and are more likely to face lifelong cognitive and physical deficits and chronic health problems.” (1,000 Days) The health of a child is ultimately dependent on the nutrition of his or her mother during pregnancy. According to Professor David Barker of Southampton University, “poor nutrition for a mother affects both the unborn baby’s weight and how well the placenta works.” Moreover, “it is thought that when food is scarce in the womb, it is channelled to the fledgling brain, leaving the heart weakened.” (DailyMail.Co.UK)
The road to a healthy well-being depends greatly on a sustained access and resource to healthier alternatives. While Clinton addresses that access is particularly hard in developing countries particularly in rural areas, it should also be noted that the United States itself has hundreds of pockets throughout the nation called “food deserts” in which fresh food access is sparse. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, food deserts are “areas that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lowfat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet” (CDC). These areas lack markets with fresh produce options and individuals are often left with cheap fast-food options that provide little to no nutritional value. Oftentimes, the lack of these alternatives are indicated to significantly contribute to a community’s childhood obesity rate. Whether in the United States or abroad, mothers and children deserve the best healthy alternatives, especially during pregnancy and the critical 1,000 days that are essential to the livelihood of each child. To find local food deserts in your area, there is a handy web tool through the U.S. Department of Agriculture identifies food deserts throughout the nation:
USDA Food Access Resource Atlas.
By recognizing the vitality for both women and children during the critical 1,000 days, we can change not only a life, but deeply and transformatively change the future together.