By Brynne Gilmore
Concern Worldwide’s 1000 Days Campaign is more than just a clever marketing tactic; it calls attention to ‘the window of vulnerability’ for children in the first 1000 days of life, which can have devastating long term consequences.
On 16 May at the National Library of Ireland, Concern Worldwide launched their 1000 Days Campaign with the slogan 1000 days of baby nutrition: this changes everything.
Broadcaster Olivia O’Leary, the MC of the event, which brought together public health experts, Irish Ministers and Concern representatives to inform, discuss and highlight the importance of good nutrition in mothers and children.
The publication of The Lancet’s maternal and child under-nutrition series in 2008 highlighted this crisis. This found that almost 200 million children under five are stunted, and under-nutrition contributes to nearly 2.7 million deaths in this age group each year.
Not only does insufficient nutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life increase a child’s risk of immediate health problems, it also affects the child’s future. Without proper nutrition, children are at risk of irreversible stunting that impacts both physical and cognitive development. Stunted children have higher rates of disease in adulthood and often suffer in areas of education and economic productivity due to impaired cognitive abilities.
The problem does not end there. As stated by Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, Head of Women’s and Children’s Health at UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, under-nutrition is an intergenerational issue as women who were undernourished as children are more likely to have unhealthy babies. McAuliffe notes that: “the first 1000 days offers a unique window of opportunity to influence the next generation”.
Hunger and under-nutrition are not just problems for mothers and babies in resource poor settings. It is a universal story with economic and agricultural issues worldwide, according to Professor Cecily Kelleher, Head of UCD School of Public Health and Population Science. Solutions will only result from collaborative efforts and recognition of the global factors that contribute to food issues. Frank Hayes, Director of Corporate Affairs from the Kerry Group, spoke of the business world and its “onus and responsibility…to develop practices to responsibly [address these issues]” as one area that can help improve worldwide nutrition.
According to Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello, Ireland has always focused on hunger in its international aid practices, which date back to its own famine history. Costello also stated that hunger, food security and nutrition will be key focus areas in 2013 with the Irish Presidency of the EU. CEO of Concern Worldwide, Tom Arnold, told the audience that this campaign and efforts to address hunger are an issue of leadership. He emphasised the important alliance between the Irish and U.S. governments in this area. Arnold stated that tackling hunger “goes beyond politics” as these issues have broad support from the people in Ireland.
Concern’s campaign to bring attention to the importance of the first 1000 days of development and enhance nutrition to mothers and babies “reflects [the] international leadership and advocacy of Concern” according to Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr Gilmore said that children everywhere have the right to reach their full potential, of which proper nutrition in the first 1000 days is an integral component.
Concern Worldwide’s campaign has the support of health professionals, ministers and governments. The campaign strives to resonate with individuals both in Ireland and globally, in the hope of helping the millions of children without access to the most basic human need: adequate food.