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Maternal and Child Nutrition is Critical
Send a message to Congress: Create a circle of protection around funding for domestic programs that improve nutrition for women and children in the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
What are solutions to addressing malnutrition for women and children during the 1,000 days in the United States?
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provides quality nutrition education and services, breast-feeding promotion and education, monthly food prescriptions, and access to maternal, prenatal, and pediatric healthcare services.
- Infants receiving WIC are less likely to be underweight, but are not at greater risk of being overweight.
- Proper nutrition for women during pregnancy can lead to lower infant mortality rates and better school performance. In the United States, for example, 4- and 5-year-olds whose mothers received proper nutrition during pregnancy through their participation in WIC have better vocabulary test scores than children whose mothers had not received WIC benefits.
- Participation in WIC dramatically improves Healthy Eating index scores for households.
- WIC serves nearly 9 million women and young children. More than 44 million Americans participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).
- Nutrition programs in the United States provide targeted assistance to the neediest people in our country. For example, 70 percent of WIC benefits and 85 percent of SNAP benefits go to families with incomes below the poverty line ($22,113 for a family of four in 2010).
- Every dollar spent on pregnant women in WIC produces $1.92 to $4.21 in Medicaid savings for newborns and their mothers.
- Nutrition programs are working. While poverty and unemployment rates have gone up the last three consecutive years, programs such as SNAP and WIC have effectively kept the household food-insecurity rates from going any higher.
- Hunger costs the United States an estimated $167 billion annually in lost productivity, reduced educational outcomes, and increased healthcare costs.
Rising food prices and the global financial crisis have led to increases in hunger and malnutrition. Right now, 870 million people suffer from chronic malnutrition worldwide, and 7,000 children die every day from malnutrition. That's one child every 24 seconds.
Improving nutrition for women and children in the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child's second birthday is the most cost-effective way to address hunger and malnutrition.
Why is the 1,000-day window so important?
- By improving nutrition for women and children during this period, we can give children a better start in life.
- Malnutrition during this period can cause irreversible damage to children, resulting in:
- Diminished intellectual capacity;
- Impaired immune function;
- Impaired vision; and,
- Shorter height.
- This damage reduces a child's ability to achieve in school and be productive throughout his or her life. Studies show that compared to a well-nourished child, a malnourished child’s earning potential is reduced by 10 percent over the course of his or her lifetime. But this damage is preventable.
- Malnutrition costs a country as much as an 8 percent loss in GDP.
What are solutions to addressing malnutrition for women and children during the 1,000-day window in developing countries?
- Simple interventions such as exclusive breast-feeding for six months, improved sanitation and hygiene, and better supplemental feeding practices for children who are weaned can save millions of lives.
- The United States is the world’s leading provider of food aid. Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative are major U.S. government development assistance programs aimed at fighting maternal and child nutrition. Nutrition investments in these programs are critical. They are also smart investments that can show a return of up to $138 for every dollar spent.
- Poverty-focused development assistance accounts for just 0.6 percent of the entire U.S. budget. Cutting funding for these programs won't significantly reduce the deficit and would undermine the progress already made in reducing maternal and child deaths and severe malnutrition.
- By protecting programs that prevent hunger and malnutrition in the 1,000 days, children are given a fighting chance, a population becomes healthier, and communities can lift themselves out of poverty.
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