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Why dairy: The first 1,000 days

World 30.06.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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Let's work together to provide nutrition that supports global health and wellness, maximizing dairy's impact on children's early development for a healthy first 1,000 days and beyond.
Why dairy: The first 1,000 days
June is National Dairy Month, a time to recognize the importance of the U.S. dairy industry and honor the vital role that dairy plays in the well-being of people across the globe. As we celebrate this month at the U.S. Dairy Council (USDEC), it’s an ideal time to explore the profound impact dairy has on our communities and our health—now and for future generations—and explore new ways in which we can do more.

Just one example of the global value of dairy is its role as a cornerstone of nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. This crucial period of rapid growth and development between conception and a child’s second birthday sets the stage for a lifetime of health and well-being. It’s during this window of time that proper nutrition plays a pivotal role in developing a baby’s brain, body and overall health, so it has a significant impact on setting a child on a path to lifelong wellness.

Because certain key nutrients are needed to support this very rapid rate of growth, the quality of the mother’s and infant’s diets are both integral to a baby’s development. Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt are ideal foods for this stage because they provide the nutrients needed for proper brain, bone and body development during pregnancy and after birth.

In a statement advocating for improving nutrition in the first 1,000 days, the American Academy of Pediatrics identified 14 key nutrients for early brain development. Dairy foods provide seven of those 14 essentials. Fr om building strong bones and teeth to supporting healthy immune function, the research-backed ability of dairy to deliver nutrition that improves lives during these formative years is undeniable.

Opportunities in Africa

One region that presents an exciting opportunity for dairy to better lives and improve long-term health is Africa—and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular. Sub-Saharan Africa suffers fr om high poverty rates: The majority of its roughly 50 countries are classified as low- or lower-middle income (LMI) countries. The burden of undernutrition is high in these countries, as many people do not receive enough nutrient-rich foods.

Research shows that dairy products are currently under-consumed in these countries. Health and nutrition experts believe an increase in dairy consumption could improve the deficient diets of pregnant mothers and children, thereby enhancing developmental outcomes.

Trade with U.S. dairy suppliers is one way to improve the population’s access to dairy nutrition. Trade plays an essential role in global nutrition security. It is a way to deliver nourishment from regions that produce it to those that need it the most.

And given population and economic growth projections—the total population of LMI Africa is expected to jump by nearly 70% between 2019 and 2043—and the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa is home to one of the world’s youngest populations, this region is poised to become a major market in the years to come.

There have been calls for the global community to focus on supporting this region, not only to improve poverty and health levels, but also because growth here could spark future development in the broader global economy as these younger Africans age. At USDEC, we’re exploring new ways to support Sub-Saharan Africa through the power of dairy to deliver nutrition that fosters continuing growth and development.

Support from USDA

We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for giving us a boost in that regard. USDA, through the new Regional Agricultural Promotion Program (RAPP), awarded USDEC $10 million to support U.S. dairy export efforts, particularly for market diversification. At least $1.8 million of that money is earmarked for Africa—to build on relationships and connections to ensure that high-quality dairy reaches wh ere it is needed around the world and wh ere we are confident it can do a world of good.

As we celebrate National Dairy Month, let’s continue our commitment to working together to provide nutrition that supports health and wellness across the globe, and explore how we can maximize dairy’s ability to help ensure all children have access to the building blocks that lay the groundwork for a healthy first 1,000 days and beyond.

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