Child’s first 1,000 days can fight malnutrition, foster growth and forge brighter future

April 19, 2016
A growing body of evidence shows that good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life—from a mother’s pregnancy until the second birthday of her child—can determine the course of his or her life, according to a new book, “The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—And the World.” Those early days influence a child’s ability to learn, work and succeed—and, by extension, the long-term health, stability and prosperity of the world.

As children around the world face daunting economic, educational, sanitary and other challenges, the book by award-winning journalist, author and anti-hunger advocate Roger Thurow shows how this seminal period can determine an individual’s life quality and longevity. To be released just ahead of Mother’s Day, the book also illustrates the extraordinary efforts of mothers around the world to nourish their children, against considerable barriers, and sheds new light on a global movement to end malnutrition.

“The first 1,000 days of a child’s life embody the most important period of human development,” says Thurow, a senior fellow for global food and agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “A child suffering from malnutrition and stunted growth spends less time in school, earns less over his or her lifetime and becomes more susceptible to chronic disease—outcomes that affect not only children but their communities.”

The book comes at a key time in the global fight against child malnutrition. In 2013, world leaders from 26 nations signed a Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, committing to concerted investment to improve hunger and nutrition indicators by 2020. These leaders will meet again this year in Rio, alongside the Olympic Games, to scale up financial commitments and assess the current state of hunger and malnutrition around the world.

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs has explored how the U.S. government might best lead this fight against malnutrition, providing a roadmap in a 2015 report on how the U.S. could commit to a long-term global food and nutrition strategy that also taps and bolsters agricultural development around the world. The report recommends a bipartisan approach and structure to tackle nutrition challenges globally.

Thurow’s book follows mothers in four corners of the world: rural Uganda, where the infant mortality rate is among the highest in the world; Chicago, where violence scars the neighborhoods of the South Side; India, where discrimination stigmatizes the birth of a girl; and Guatemala’s western highlands, where most people are riddled with parasites and mothers can rarely afford the fresh vegetables they farm.

Through the stories of these women and children, Thurow illuminates how the 1,000 Days movement—based on the science, politics and economics of malnutrition—aims to reshape long-term global health and prosperity by investing in nutrition during this acute phase of growth. The book captures inspiring human faces and hearts of those working to change the nutrition landscape, expanding the narrative with the daunting statistics and facts of malnutrition’s insidious impact.

This compelling and important book is available now for pre-orders and is guaranteed in stores by May 3. It also will be available during the 2016 Global Food Security Symposium, where Thurow will lead a discussion about the importance of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.

“The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—And the World” is based on a reporting project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.