New Delhi: The nutrition and care received during the first 1,000 days that is from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until the child’s second birthday, can help build a healthier future. The first 1,000 days can be seen as a combination of five stages/phases – the nine months of pregnancy (antenatal period); birth passage or delivery process (intranatal period); four weeks following birth (neonatal period); 11 months of infancy; and the final chunk post first birthday until two years when the child is weaned from the breast and transitioned to consuming eating solids along with breastfeeding. The right nutrition during this window can have a huge impact on a child’s ability to grow and learn. But often this window is neglected and results in an increase in cases of malnutrition, stunting (which is low height for their age) and anaemia.
To discuss the importance of the first 1,000 days, breastfeeding and why it is necessary to provide children the right form of nutrition since the very beginning, experts at NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India #SwasthyaMantra telethon held on October 2 discussed one of the most important pillars of the campaign – Health and the relationship between the first 1,000 days and nutritional health of the country.
Talking about health in general, Dr Raj Bhandari, Member, National Technical Board on Nutrition, Women & Child Development Department, Government of India said,
If we look at data, National Family Health Survey tells us that in India, 1 in 2 child is anaemic, 1 in 3 is stunted, 1 in 4 has low birth weight and 1 in 5 is wasted (which is low weight for height). So, the state of nutrition is pretty dismal but having said that, we have come a long way. Another factor is the early marriages, when the young girls who are suffering from all these issues since childhood enter motherhood it becomes a cause of concern. What we need to do is, first, we need to identify pregnancies which are at high nutritional risks and secondly, make sure we are fixing the problem of undernutrition from grass-root levels.
On the other hand, talking about the misinformation in terms of breastfeeding and why there is an urgent need to tackle the myths, Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, Director, Neonatology & Founder, Amaara Human Milk Bank, Fortis La Femme said,
Breastfeeding can be simplified and is not as difficult as people make it seem. I always feel that the mother’s instinct is the best instinct but they are always being told what to do. If there are people giving wrong advice, she is unable to focus on feeding. The mother becomes quite tired. She is unable to determine when to sleep. it is important to sensitise the mothers and father beforehand. The fathers need to be sensitised too because he can support the mother well. All the misinformation should be tackled before the delivery and help her be prepared.
Dr Indira Chakravarty, Former Director & Dean, All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health tagged the first 1,000 days as a unique period and said,
It is the foundation period for the child’s whole life. If proper coverage is given during this time, then the child’s whole life will be better.
Basanta Kar, Recipient of Global Nutrition Leadership and Transform Nutrition Champion Award reiterated the point about making sure the child is provided with the best of best nutrition during the first 1,000 days and the new mother is supported in a 360-degree way, said,
Good nutrition means a good life. Today good nutrition is like a vaccine also. Atmanirbhar Poshan (self-reliable nutrition) is a strategic and practical need today. We need to focus on the first 1,000 days and make sure the new mothers know about the good practices and ensure proper nutrition is being provided to the children – our future generation. Not just that, we need to focus on the health of the new mothers, make sure they are being provided with the crucial micronutrients that are needed to deliver a healthy baby.
In the wake of the current coronavirus pandemic and how it has affected the overall nutritional health of the country, Dr Rajan Shankar, Consultant, TATA Trust said,
The pregnant women require more nutrition during pregnancy – it is a known fact. People’s great proportion of livelihood is spent on food. If there is an issue with the nutrition at this stage, the child delivered will be unhealthy. If the child is born with low birth weight then they are more vulnerable to develop metabolic syndrome, diabetes, obesity and other non-communicable diseases in the future. Now, in the current scenario of COVID, all the services have been disturbed, there is no doubt that the pandemic has affected nutrition. Millions will be pushed further into poverty and thus more adversely affected by malnutrition. So, there is definitely going to be hard times in the future and women and children will be the worst affected.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.