Food for thought: Nutrition in the first 1,000 days

Good nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life — from pregnancy to 2 years of age — is critical to ensuring that children survive, develop properly and reach their full potential. Until now, there has been too little evidence of which specific actions generate the best nutritional results during this critical time in child development.

FHI 360 and several research partners completed four large-scale randomized clinical trials in Bangladesh, Burundi, Guatemala and Malawi that identified the most cost-effective and nutritious interventions for the first 1,000 days. Through rigorous controlled trials, researchers compared the interventions while varying the duration of supplements and the quantity of food rations. The studies looked at the effectiveness of specific interventions, such as micronutrient powders and lipid-based nutrient supplements, and considered which mix of interventions reap the most benefits and for what length of time. Study results in Bangladesh, for example, showed that prenatal lipid-based nutrient supplements improved birth outcomes, including a 17 percent reduction in newborn stunting.

The studies zeroed in on the most important factors that should be considered when choosing nutrition-related interventions, such as the prevalence of household food insecurity and access to adequate sanitation and health care. The results of the research are being shared with stakeholders at conferences, workshops and peer-reviewed journals to inform nutrition policy development and best practices so that children get the best start in life.

Measuring nutritional status with a body mass index wheel

Health care workers in developing countries are using a single, time-saving tool to quickly calculate BMI and BMI-for-age and determine a client’s nutritional status.

Photo credit: FHI 360