Nurturing care is critical to improving health outcomes

Photo by Greta Hoffman

A friend recently told me, “I vowed to never use the word ‘diet’ in front of my daughter.” She explained how as she was growing up, her mother was fixated on dieting, and how that affected her relationship with food and her body image. I sympathized. My grandmother was a model, and I grew up in a ballet school, so body image was always at the forefront of my existence. My friend and I discussed the challenge of modeling healthy eating for our kids when we ourselves have been inflicted with such detrimental habits; things like eating in secrecy and restricting calories. 

Our conversation segued, soon chatting about convenience and ultra processed foods, what exactly are healthy choices?, and this incessant feeling of being rushed. We lamented about the after-school pace: hurry-up homework, hurry-up mealtime, hurry-up extra-curriculars, hurry-up bedtime.

Photo by August de Richelieu

The time to model healthy eating and the ability to engage socially over a meal is so condensed, families often forgo the art of dining and sharing meals entirely. Many of us have fallen to “the packet apocalypse”, propped bottles, hurled yogurt tubes to the back of the van, and scarfed- down burgers from the drive-thru.

Checking my email later this day, I was pleased to find Global Health Media’s recent announcement of their Nurturing Care Series.  While the 10-video collection is intended for health workers and not necessarily for direct family use, the resource felt like the perfect reminder of the importance of prioritizing responsive, nurturing and reciprocal interactions in all of our behavior, including meal time. 

Photo by Keira Burton

Global Health Media’s series is in partnership with USAID’s Responsive Care and Early Learning (RCEL) project which focuses on “good health, adequate nutrition, safety and security, responsive caregiving, and opportunities for early learning” as critical components to improving early childhood development (ECD) outcomes. 

“Integrating responsive care and early learning messages into existing nutrition counseling has significant potential to improve both nutrition and ECD outcomes,” the organization’s Advancing Nutrition page states. 

Over the years, Our Milky Way has produced quite a collection highlighting responsive feeding and interactive relationships. Stewed in a bit of irony, as I write to you from the glow of my computer, I’d like to spend this week resurfacing these pieces. 

 

 

 

  • Photo by Luiza Braun

    Mother and bab(ies) attend and respond to one another facilitating nourishment, the flow of hormones, immunity, learning and bonding, comfort, fun, an all-encompassing sensory experience that has generational impacts on social, emotional and physical health. Breastfeeding is collaborative covers the intimacy of the breastfeeding dyad up to breastfeeding as a collaborative global food security system. 

 

 

  • Cindy Turner-Maffei’s coverage of the “Nutrition and Nurture in Infancy and Childhood: Bio-Cultural Perspectives” conference… well, it’s really all in the title. 

 

  • Humans are carry mammals, not nest or cache animals. Baby-wearing facilities things like  the development of healthy physiological functions to providing a interactive social interactions for infants and young children, where they are included in the “action” rather than strapped into devices with little stimulation. Babywearing as a public health initiative  highlights Rebecca Morse’s work and further explores the importance of baby wearing.

 

 

  • Finally, we couldn’t close out without noting skin-to-skin, where connections are first fused outside of the womb. Find Our Milky Way’s collection on skin-to-skin and kangaroo mother care here and here

Centering and celebrating cultures in health: Dietary Guidelines for infants and toddlers for Chinese and Vietnamese communities

During the first week of April each year, the American Public Health Association (APHA) brings together communities to observe National Public Health Week. This year’s theme  is Centering and Celebrating Cultures in Health and highlights the importance of fostering cultural connections to health and quality of life. 

Last month, we celebrated National Nutrition Month, an annual campaign by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics which highlights the importance of making informed food choices across the lifespan.

Photo by Angela Roma

A beautiful example of the convergence of these two themes is work being done by the Asian Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Task Force (APIBTF) a part of  Breastfeed LA, tailoring the Dietary Guidelines for infants and toddlers for Chinese and Vietnamese communities. This project augments APIBTF’s sister organization Alameda County’s Asian, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander (ASAP!) Breastfeeding Taskforce’s Continuity of Care (CoC) Blueprint Project Prenatal Toolkit for AANHPI families. The prenatal toolkit was adapted from an existing toolkit in Alameda County, and is available in English, traditional Chinese, and Vietnamese.

The initiative is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (CDC/DNPAO). NACCHO selected seven communities to strengthen community lactation support through the implementation of the Continuity of Care in Breastfeeding Support: A Blueprint for Communities from November 2022 to July 2023. The purpose of this project is to support the implementation of CoC strategies by local-level organizations among oppressed communities with historically low rates of chest/breastfeeding. [https://www.naccho.org/programs/community-health/maternal-child-adolescent-health/breastfeeding-support#early-childhood-nutrition]

Photo by Roderick Salatan

 

The dietary resources which include an Educational Handout from Dietary Guidelines, Nutrition Resource Directory, and social media posts can be found here, available in English, Chinese and Vietnamese. The materials include a dietary guidelines hand out with two toddler-friendly recipes (with a fun suggestion to use green onion to decorate steamed eggs), three social media messages with a timeline for infant feeding, human milk recommendations, and complementary food recommendations, all commonly eaten in Asian communities. The deliverables are full of color and easy to navigate. 

Judy Li and Cindy Young presented their work during NACCHO’s The First 1,000 Days Nutrition: Improving Nutrition Security for Infants and Toddlers in Communities of Color where the Improving Infant and Young Child Nutrition during the first 1,000 days in Communities of Color summary report was introduced. 

Li, Young and their team’s work was community-informed, standing by the sentiment, “Nothing about us, without us.” The team spoke with community members about eating habits and learned that families do not eat according to the MyPlate graphic. Instead, they enjoy their meals in family-style servings from bowls. Recipes developed were tested by community members with children and tailored according to their suggestions; for example, the addition of different dipping sauces.

Participants also offered feedback stating that they appreciated the accessibility of the ingredients. 

 

Helpful links

ASAP!’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Social Media Toolkit 

National Public Health Week’s shareables and toolkit (available in Spanish)  

USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2020-2025)

The Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN) brief on Transition Feeding 

Public Health Nutrition Deserves More Attention

Undernourished and Overlooked