Engaging Adolescents to Accelerate Progress on the First 1,000 Days | Children for Health’s Work A Case Study

This paper was prepared by SPRING and Save the Children UK. Full acknowledgements are included in this PDF version, access the online version here.

The first 1,000 days, the period between the start of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, is the most critical time in life for growth and development and also the most responsive to interventions (Prendergast and Humphrey 2014; 1,000 Days 2018). Adolescence (ages 10-19) is another critical period during the life course, and linkages between this generation and the first 1,000 days must be explored and exploited more fully by the global nutrition community.

Adolescents—both boys and girls—play an important yet often overlooked role in family health and nutrition. As parents, future parents, and an estimated one-sixth of the world’s population, this generation is contributing to and shaping society in so many ways.

Adolescents’ growth, health, nutrition, human capital, and societal significance are not only important for their own well-being, but also for ensuring optimal maternal health and birth outcomes for themselves and their families now and later in life. This paper will demonstrate how prioritizing and engaging adolescents prior to and during the first 1,000 days can accelerate progress on improving nutrition and contribute to meeting multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations 2015).

Children for Health’s work in Mozambique is featured in this paper:

Program Example 2.

Engaging with Adolescents in Mozambique (photographs our own and not in the publication cited)

Children learning about the UACM

Children’s Participation, Learning, and Action for Nutrition (PCAAN) is a DANIDA and USAID funded program, led by Children for Health in partnership with the Mozambican government, that targets 20 schools in Tete Province.

PCAAN is a participatory nutrition education program demonstrating how children and young adolescents can be positive influencers and contributors to nutrition-related practices in their families and communities. The project is part of the Provincial Level Multi-sectoral Action Plan for Reduction of Chronic Malnutrition (PAMRDC 2012-2017), which aims to reduce chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years of age.

Young adolescent boys are discussing the merits of colostrum and breast-feeding as part of a role play using puppets as their ‘babies’.

PCAAN enables children to work together to create behavior change for themselves, other children, and their families. The project co-created a special curriculum structured around eight messages with provincial policy-makers and practitioners. The curriculum strengthens existing content in the primary school syllabus and family health strategy for the province. Children and young adolescents in grades 5-7 participate in school-based activities with adult facilitators.

They develop skills and attitudes needed to adapt nutrition and hygiene messages and practices for sharing and discussing with peers at school and with family and community members at home.

The PCAAN pilot project has led to significant improvements in breastfeeding, increasing both the knowledge and practice of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, improvements in hygiene knowledge, practice and habits, and improvements in household food sharing using individual plates and ensuring more equity in portion size.

Learn more about the PCAAN programme.

Health workers and teachers working with children to design nutrition education strategies.