When it comes to your body, there’s a lot you can thank your parents for. Like your height, the shape of your nose, or those freckles. Inherited traits are decided by nature long before you’re born, and they perpetuate through generations.
Good health, too, can be inherited. But unlike a nose, parents can — and should — take an active role in shaping it.
Even before they’re born, babies need certain things from their parents. Those things may be small, but their impact is huge. Nutrients like iron, folic acid, and iodine, and a handful of other vitamins and minerals, are essential to a healthy pregnancy — and early life.
But access to these vitamins and minerals isn’t available for everyone.
Healthy Families Start with Healthy Parents
Malnutrition takes many forms. While some struggle with a lack of food, others experience the problem of empty calories and complications from obesity. No matter its shape, undernourishment affects nearly every facet of health. And for pregnant mothers and their children, malnutrition can threaten lifelong health.
Over half of adolescent girls and young women in low- and middle-income countries experience malnutrition. This has adverse effects on their health as they grow older, and, if they have children, these deficiencies are passed along.
Here’s how: Because pregnant women and babies develop at such an incredible rate, they need very specific vitamins and minerals that help support rapid growth. If those nutrients are absent during the crucial period from conception through a child’s second birthday, children are more likely to experience stunted growth and impaired neurological development.
This single setback during such an important time can affect a baby’s development, likely making the rest of their life needlessly more difficult with no way of going back. Deficiencies could lead to struggles in school, and later in a career. It’s been shown that this cycle of malnutrition often serves to perpetuate poverty.
Bridging the Nutrient Gap
Love is the currency of parenthood. We give it, we take it. It gets passed down through generations. And, of course, so does good health. But good health sometimes requires a little help.
Experts around the world recommend nutrient supplementation for pregnant women, in addition to a diverse and nutritious diet. These supplements can help bridge the gap between malnutrition and good health.
Globally, an estimated 149 million children under the age of five are developmentally impacted as a result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in their first 1,000 days (from conception through their second birthday).
For millions of moms-to-be, the nutrient gap is currently impossible to bridge. And, as we’ve seen, if your family is stuck on the wrong side, you could be there for generations.
So, how can we help?
Bayer created the Nutrient Gap Initiative to expand access to vital nutrients in underserved communities. Our first focus is helping parents in these communities learn about nutrition and gain access to life-changing vitamins and minerals. A major aspect of the program is widening access to prenatal supplements.
These types of initiatives are only sustainable if they’re ingrained into local and familial practices. That’s why education is so important. In order to create a new cycle — a cycle of health education and proper nutrition — supplements need to be available, and communities need to understand why they’re so important.
When parents know how to give their children a brighter future, they are empowered to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. Just as the detrimental cycle of malnutrition keeps families locked in poverty, a healthy cycle of knowledge and good nutrition can help keep them, and subsequent generations, moving in the right direction.
Through crucial partnerships with leading non-profit organization, Vitamin Angels, we aim to reach four million pregnant women and their babies annually with a daily vitamin and mineral supplement intervention. This work has already started in more than 25 countries, including: Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, and the United States, and our goal is to reach 50 million people in underserved communities per year by 2030.
Because they help keep moms strong, and support children in getting a better start in life, these tiny vitamins and minerals have the power to unlock a great amount of future human potential. They could set future generations on the path to healthy lives, and that’s something the world could use.
At Bayer, our mission is to use science to help people live better lives. Sometimes that work starts before they’re even born.