July 2023


Untapping the potential of First 1000 Days

A child’s first 1,000 days of life are the most delicate and important for laying the foundation for their healthy growth and development. Changes in the results of birth and growth and newborn stunting have been demonstrated by dietary support for the first 1,000 of life. Poor maternal and child health outcomes, particularly poor birth outcomes, are linked to inadequate maternal nutrition during conception, during pregnancy, and after delivery.

Maternal nutrition is imperative for pregnant and lactating mothers. A diet deficient in essential nutrients can lead to a plethora of health conditions and can also result in stillbirth, developmental delays, and low birth weight in infants. Early childhood nutrition is equally crucial as a lack of a nutritious diet in early childhood can lead to malnutrition and a deficiency of Vitamin A. This can weaken a child’s immunity, leaving them vulnerable and susceptible to various diseases.

To ensure the well-being of mothers, it is vital to ensure that women follow a nutritious diet during this crucial phase in their lives when there is an increase in their nutritional requirements and they are at their most nutritionally vulnerable stage. Equal importance should also be given to early childhood nutrition in order to ensure the proper growth and development of children.

Bridging the gap in Sangrur, Punjab

The Nutrition Enhancement Programme of Smile Foundation, launched in 2019 in partnership with PepsiCo Foundation, seeks to improve the nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women, and children belonging to the age group of 0-6 years, residing across 13 villages in the Bhawanigarh block of Sangrur District, Punjab.

Using a multi-pronged approach, the programme strives to generate awareness about the importance of maternal and child nutrition in the local community to improve dietary habits. The project also aims to strengthen government programmes on child nutrition and provide support to Anganwadi centres and Village Health, Sanitation, and Nutrition Committees (VHSNC) in their effort to ensure nutrition security to women and children, in addition to capacity-building of frontline workers.

Under the Sangrur Project, several developmental activities are focused on to ensure the complete nutritional needs of mothers and their newborns. These include–

▶ Refurbishment of Anganwadi centres to draw in more children and help in the dissemination of primary education, conducting health awareness programmes in school
▶ Educating pregnant and lactating mothers on the importance of health and nutrition and the knowledge of child development and diet diversity
▶ Organising health camps for beneficiaries to ensure regular monitoring of their health
▶ Capacity-building sessions for Anganwadi workers to develop and strengthen their skills and empower them
▶ Distribution of nutritious recipes amongst beneficiaries
▶ Setting up of kitchen gardens
▶ Conducting counseling sessions on Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) consumption
▶ Birth Preparedness through monthly community meetings and home visits, and
▶ Generating awareness on anemia, maternal and child nutrition through the organization of health camps and the distribution of nutrition kits.

The project also entails the celebration of Village Health and Nutrition Days (VHND) for people to interact with qualified doctors and garner information on maternal and child health, nutrition, family planning, sanitation, communicable diseases, and other health concerns.

Sustaining Change inCommunities

Lovepreet Kaur, a resident of Sangrur, in her first trimester of pregnancy met Manju Rani, a community facilitator from the Sangrur Project during one of her home visits. On learning about her pregnancy, the community facilitator offered Lovepreet prenatal care and briefed her on antenatal visits, Iron and Folic Acid consumption and supplementation, the benefits of colostrum, and early initiation of breastfeeding– information that greatly benefitted her.

Manju also provided Lovepreeet with valuable information about postnatal care and advised her to attend health camps and capacity-building sessions regularly organised by Smile Foundation. The quality prenatal and postnatal care that she received through the project helped her greatly and decreased the myriad risks associated with pregnancy. Lovepreet now has a healthy child in her arms, relieved that she does not have to do this all alone. It takes a village to raise a child and thankfully, she has the support of more than a village at her disposal.

Smile Foundation is working closely with health workers and the government to ensure proper maternal nutrition to ensure optimal fetal growth, positive obstetrical outcomes, a decrease in perinatal mortality, and an improvement in the overall health of women and children. Through its Nutrition Enhancement programme, Smile Foundation is working towards gender-responsive nutrition to ensure that pregnant and lactating women meet their dietary requirements and that children from lower-income households have access to nutritious food to prevent malnutrition.



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