The magic of 1,000 days

Roger Thurow is an author, journalist, and hunger activist. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Bryana Braxton

Author, journalist, and hunger activist Roger Thurow strives to raise awareness about child malnutrition and stunting around the world.  His latest book, scheduled for release in May, continues that quest as it details the importance of proper nutrition and health care during the crucial 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The First 1,000 Days: a Crucial Time for Mothers and Children ― and the World” follows groups of women and their children in India, Guatemala, Uganda, and the United States. Their stories reveal how the cost of stunted children reverberates from the individual to the community.

Stunting, the failure to grow both physically and cognitively, occurs when a child does not eat the right foods to receive essential nutrients. Thurow defines stunting as “a life sentence of under-performance and under-achievement.”

“A stunted child in Africa, India, Guatemala or the Southside of Chicago is a stunted child for everywhere,” said Thurow, during an interview at Bread for the World’s office in Washington, D.C., last month.

The condition decreases cognitive development, making it difficult for children to learn in school. Poor or incomplete education, in turn, affects future job opportunities and can lead to a decreased income and poverty.

As the number of stunted children grows in a country, malnutrition has a national impact. Poverty levels increase, while the productivity and numbers in the labor force decreases. As multiple countries struggle economically from the effects of malnutrition, global trade and economic activity declines.

Malnutrition is not an issue just for developing countries; this issue affects all nations. Thurow points to the 1,000-day window to find a solution to this global problem. “If we truly want to make a difference and change the future, it’s the 1,000 days that we have the chance to do that,” he said.

Proper nutrition during this period builds the foundation for brain development, healthy growth, and a strong immune system. This time sets a child up for lifelong health, including their predisposition to obesity and certain chronic diseases.

Bread recognizes the opportunity that the 1,000-day movement presents to end child malnutrition and stunting. This year’s Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive advocates for maternal and child nutrition worldwide. We are urging Congress to accelerate global progress against malnutrition by increasing U.S. government funding for the nutrition and health of mothers, newborns, and young children to $230 million.

Thurow is encouraging Bread members to “raise the clamor” and bring child malnutrition to Congress’ attention through the Offering of Letters and Lobby Day. In fact, Thurow is scheduled to speak at Bread’s Lobby Day on June 7.   

Tell Congress to increase funding for the nutrition and health of mothers, newborns, and young children today. Learn more about the 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive, and make sure to participate in a letter-writing event.

Bryana Braxton is a communications intern at Bread for the World and a student at American University.

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