How a mother and her child are nurtured and nourished in the first 1,000 days in the child’s life—from conception to the age of two—may affect not only the personal, life-long development of the child but also the development of the society around her or him. This is the idea behind the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), or the 1,000 Days movement. Since 2010, countries around the world have committed to tackling global malnutrition and stunting by focusing on these fragile but critical 1,000 days.
The First 1,000 Days: A Crucial Time for Mothers and Children—And the World is a new book by Roger Thurow, Global Food and Agriculture Senior Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, that endeavors to show the movement in its works by following the 1,000-day journeys of 12 new mothers from 4 countries: the United States, Uganda, India, and Guatemala. It tells the stories of each woman’s efforts to gain the knowledge and resources that would allow her to provide the best care and environment for her child, and also the unique struggles each faces in the process.
The women have all participated in health classes conducted in their communities that highlight the importance of the first 1,000 days. In Chicago, where more than 500,000 residents have lacked access to fresh fruits and vegetables, Thurow offers a look into the life of young high school student and mother Jessica, who is determined to raise her daughter Alitzel on nutritious foods.
From the Palajunoj Valley of Guatemala, readers meet Gabriela, who for the first time learns the importance of vitamins and minerals, as well as hygiene and sanitation, at her community nutrition classes, but who is frustrated that she can rarely afford to buy vegetables, fruits, and meats to implement a healthful diet for her family. This is occurring despite Guatemala being one of the top suppliers of vegetables to the U.S.
In the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, readers are introduced to rural women like Sushma, who are taking classes offered by community empowerment organization Saksham, whose work has reduced local communities’ infant mortality rate by half through a focus on the first 1,000 Days. Sushma has to persevere in following Saksham’s practices in the face of a skeptical mother-in-law, who is, however, later convinced by the positive changes in her grandchildren’s health.
And in the villages of northern Uganda, Thurow shows how the lack of adequate and accessible health infrastructure exacerbates health problems of mothers and children in the communities. Thurow tells the story of women like Brenda, who are farming and feeding themselves and their newborns biofortified sweet potatoes and beans, and trying to diversify their diets.
These and other mothers from Thurow’s book are all from impoverished families from four different continents of the world, facing various challenges to providing an ideal environment and nourishment to ensure their children not only survive, but also, hopefully, thrive.
But the effects of malnutrition can also resonate far beyond the individual level. As Thurow puts it in this introductory video of the book, “What might a child have contributed to the world if he or she hadn’t been stunted in the 1,000 days? A lost chance at greatness for one is a lost chance for all.”
To learn more, get a glimpse of these women and their stories, or place an order, please visit The Chicago Council’s web interactive on The First 1,000 Days.
An excerpt of the book is available here.