The 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition provided new evidence on the importance of women’s nutrition at the time of conception and during pregnancy, not only to ensure optimal fetal growth and development but also for the health of the mother. New global estimates suggest that fetal growth restriction resulting from poor in utero nutrition—including anemia and micronutrient deficiencies—is the cause of more than 800,000 neonatal deaths and 20 percent of stunting in children less than five years of age. Iron and calcium deficiencies, the two most common nutritional causes of maternal mortality, contribute to 23 percent and 19 percent of maternal deaths respectively. USAID’s Multi-sectoral Nutrition Strategy identifies adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation as imperative to preventing maternal and child deaths (USAID 2014).
In many countries, the fact that adolescent girls are soon-to-be-mothers further underscores the importance of establishing positive nutrition behaviors during this critical period. The Lancet Series also identified adolescent girls as a key priority, placing them together with women of reproductive age (WRA) and mothers at the center of nutrition interventions. Similarly, in a report on the global burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), the Population Reference Bureau identified adolescence as the “last best chance to build positive health habits and limit damaging ones,” explaining that “minimizing risk factors for NCDs, particularly during adolescence, offers the opportunity for better health, more years of productivity, and lower health care costs."
SPRING works in countries to build capacity to identify priority behaviors through formative research, nutrition assessments, and systematic reviews of other available data. Given the gap in global nutrition guidance for adolescents and WRA, SPRING has partnered with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the USAID-funded Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA), and other leaders in the field to identify key diet and eating practices for this group and explore effective options for promoting them. SPRING is committed to moving the focus on adolescent girls and WRA forward.