Malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly 3.1 million child deaths each year1. Worldwide, more than 170 million children fail to reach their full potential due to poor nutrition and 2 billion people suffer the effects of nutritional deficiencies. Under-nutrition is also estimated to account for a 10 percent reduction of lifetime earnings, placing a huge burden on household and national economies2. Malnutrition includes under-nutrition and over-nutrition both of which lead to poor health conditions and early death in developing and developed countries around the world1.
In the U.S., more than 23 million children and adolescents—nearly one in three3 —are obese or overweight, putting them at higher risk for serious, even life-threatening health problems. In the communities Save the Children serves, an average of 59 percent of the population does not have access to fresh, healthy foods. More than 60 percent of 5- to 10-year-olds have at least one risk factor for heart disease4. The percentage of children, ages 6–11, who are obese has quadrupled over the past 35 years, making this a public health epidemic3.
Well-nourished children are better equipped to fight disease, learn and contribute to society. Girls with good nutrition become strong women and have healthier children and more prosperous families. Societies with well-nourished populations are more productive, economically viable and secure.
SAVE THE CHILDREN’S APPROACH TO PREVENT MALNUTRITION
In the US
Save the Children combats childhood obesity and malnutrition for children in the U.S. through the effective combination of practice and policy. Our work combines locally driven approaches that involve and inspire communities with programs and policies that benefit all children in the fight against childhood obesity. Working with local partners across the country, Save the Children provides programming to increase children’s access to affordable healthy food, nutrition knowledge, and opportunities for physical activity.
U.S. Program Highlights
Healthy Choices operates in the after-school and summer environment in 14 states, serving more than 13,900 children living in poverty. We provide children with 30 minutes or more of daily, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity that teaches lifelong movement skills and combines fun and fitness. In addition, participating children also receive a daily, healthy snack, in alignment with Save the Children’s Healthy Snack Standards, and participate in weekly nutrition education. Through exposure to healthy snacks and nutrition lessons, children are encouraged to make good food choices and lead healthier, active lifestyles.
The first 1,000 days—from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday: that’s the time frame Save the Children emphasizes as the “window of opportunity” for nutrition. During this time, a child’s brain and body develop rapidly. The 1,000 days approach is critical, for even if a child’s nutrition status improves after the first two years of life, damage done during those early years is largely irreversible.
We work with partners at all levels to prevent malnutrition by bringing a wide range of integrated interventions and programs to mothers and children, delivered through health workers and volunteers in the community and health staff at the health facility. Our programs:
To ensure progress on the frontlines of nutrition, it is essential to galvanize and capitalize on political commitment. Save the Children supports the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, a global platform that is active in more than 30 countries, and we convene the SUN Civil Society global network and facilitate coalitions in several countries to build capacity in nutrition planning and policy.
1Black, Vitora, Walker et al. (2013) “Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries,” The Lancet 382(9890) 427-451
2Horton, Sheekar et al (2010). “Scaling up Nutrition, What Will it Cost,” World Bank
3“Communicating for Success: Childhood Obesity Message Manual. (2009)”. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
4 “Childhood Obesity Facts” (2014). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.