Reframing the early childhood obesity prevention narrative through an equitable nurturing approach

Helen Skouteris, Heidi J. Bergmeier, Scott D. Berns, Jeanette Betancourt, Renée Boynton-Jarrett, Martha B. Davis, Kay Gibbons, Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Mary Story

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High-quality mother–child interactions during the first 2,000 days, from conception to age 5 years, are considered crucial for preventing obesity development during early life stages. However, mother–child dyads interact within and are influenced by broader socio-ecological contexts involved in shaping child development outcomes, including nutrition. Hence, the coexistence of both undernutrition and obesity has been noted in inequitable social conditions, with drivers of undernutrition and overnutrition in children sharing common elements, such as poverty and food insecurity. To date, a holistic life-course approach to childhood obesity prevention that includes an equitable developmental perspective has not emerged. The World Health Organization (WHO) Nurturing Care Framework provides the foundation for reframing the narrative to understand childhood obesity through the lens of an equitable nurturing care approach to child development from a life-course perspective. In this perspective, we outline our rationale for reframing the childhood narrative by integrating an equitable nurturing care approach to childhood obesity prevention. Four key elements of reframing the narrative include: (a) extending the focus from the current 1,000 to 2,000 days (conception to 5 years); (b) highlighting the importance of nurturing mutually responsive child-caregiver connections to age 5; (c) recognition of racism and related stressors, not solely race/ethnicity, as part of adverse child experiences and social determinants of obesity; and (d) addressing equity by codesigning interventions with socially marginalized families and communities. An equitable, asset-based engagement of families and communities could drive the transformation of policies, systems and social conditions to prevent childhood obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13094
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


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