NICHQ CEO, Co-authors Call for Reframing the Obesity Prevention Narrative

October 19, 2020

BOSTON- On Oct. 17, 2020, an article published in Maternal and Child Nutrition calls for a holistic life-course approach to childhood obesity prevention that includes an equitable developmental perspective. “Reframing the early childhood obesity prevention narrative through an equitable, nurturing approach was coauthored by Scott D. Berns, MD, MPH, FAAP, President and CEO of the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ)1.  

The authors assert that the field’s current focus on “the first 1,000 days” is limiting and should be reframed to “the first 2,000 days,” as child self-regulation, which is foundational in health behavior, increases substantially during the first five years, and is heavily influenced by the experiences of caregivers. The role of historical and racialized trauma, especially within food systems, underlies the disparities parents and caregivers face – and the authors call on obesity prevention professionals to adapt a health equity lens to address these intersections, especially relevant in the current tri-fold pandemic landscape of racism, the impact of COVID-19, and its related economic fallout.   

Key messages include:

  • The first 2,000 days, from conception to age 5 years, are crucial for preventing childhood obesity. 

  • Mother–child dyads function within and are influenced by a broader context of socio‐ecological factors involved in promoting the quality of caregiving, including nutrition, across the highly sensitive early stages of child development. 

  • Childhood obesity prevention must address social and health inequities, including historical and racialized trauma, underpinning links between maternal and early childhood nutrition and the disproportionate prevalence of obesity among disadvantaged populations. 

  • A holistic life course approach to childhood obesity prevention that includes an equitable developmental perspective is needed. 

This article is a direct outcome from Salzburg Global Seminar’s Health and Health Care Innovation program, Halting the Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Identifying Decisive Interventions in Complex Systems. Between December 14-19, 2019, worldwide experts in nutrition, health, obesity prevention, child development, and advocacy convened in Salzburg, Austria. They reviewed and built on existing strategies to enable all children to grow up at a healthy weight, collaborating on new policy ideas to better support families and communities while focusing on the most socially disadvantaged populations. 

The authors call for co-design with families and community members who may be traditionally socially marginalized within the context of advancing equity in child obesity prevention. Read the entire article online.  

For media inquiries, please contact:
Josh Licursi
Josh Licursi
NICHQ Communications Manager or 617-391-2757