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A Global Conversation: Role of Nutrition in Maternal and Infant Health

Mothers and their infants gather in the Ugandan village of Barjwinya for a community meeting on the benefits of planting and eating nutrient-fortified crops like orange-flesh sweet potatoes and high-iron beans. Image by Roger Thurow. Uganda, 2013.

The 1,000 Days Classroom: Relaxing on the veranda of the local health center, pregnant women and moms with newborns focus on a nutrition and health care lesson. Image by Roger Thurow. Uganda, 2013.

Health center midwife Susan Ejang demonstrates the importance of eating healthy, nutritious foods during the 1,000 Days. “Take good care and the next president of our country may come from this group!” she tells the women. Image by Roger Thurow. Uganda, 2013.

What Dads need to know: A poster on the door of the health center clinic exhorts men to bring their wives to a health facility for the delivery, breaking with old customs of giving birth at home. Image by Roger Thurow. Uganda, 2013.

In the rural area of Shivgarh, in Uttar Pradesh, India, health discussions often take place on shaded porches, with home-made fans at the ready. Image by Roger Thurow. India, 2013.

Young women in the village of Rampur Khas — Meera, Kiran, Meena and Bhavana — are eager to learn about the latest health interventions at gatherings facilitated by a local organization called the Community Empowerment Lab. Image by Roger Thurow. India, 2013.

In their maternal and infant health booklets, where they record the details of the 1,000 Days, pregnant women read about the importance of eating healthy and getting plenty of rest. Image by Roger Thurow. India, 2013.

Just a two-hour drive away, in a seemingly different world, a billboard rising high above an upscale neighborhood in the city of Lucknow promises “truly painless” labor and delivery. Image by Roger Thurow. India, 2013.

In a small community center in Chuicavioc, Guatemala, where babies are weighed and measured and women receive health and nutrition support, a 1,000 Days cooking class organized by the clinic Primeros Pasos teaches the virtues of vegetable-rich soups. Image by Roger Thurow. Guatemala, 2013.

Outside the center, women of Chuicavioc tend to a small vegetable garden. Image by Roger Thurow. Guatemala, 2013.

Guatemala’s food bowl is the center of attention at a Primeros Pasos class on the benefits of a balanced diet. Image by Roger Thurow. Guatemala, 2013.

Maria Jolanda, with her son, works beside her friend Maria Estella on an exercise to fill the bowl with nutritious foods. Image by Roger Thurow. Guatemala, 2013.

In a Chicago high school, a real classroom is devoted to teen moms; it is a place where they can learn about healthy eating and get clothes and toys for their babies. Image by Roger Thurow. Chicago, 2013.

"Meet the Power Foods," the same message for pregnant women and new moms in Chicago as in Uganda, India and Guatemala. Image by Roger Thurow. Chicago, 2013.

Urban agriculture efforts, like Chicago Lights Urban Farm in the shadow of the city’s famed skyline, bring needed vegetables to neighborhoods located in “food deserts,” areas where fruits and vegetables are otherwise scarce. Image by Roger Thurow. Chicago, 2013.

In Chicago, the Ounce of Prevention organization offers health and nutrition information during home visits with pregnant women and new mothers. At a summer picnic for Ounce’s Healthy Parents and Babies program, home visitor Edna Lindsey advises new mom Keana Smylie while holding Keana’s five-month-old daughter Kassidy. Image by Roger Thurow. Chicago, 2013.

For all the scientific breakthroughs and high-tech communication advances, simple gatherings on a veranda or under a shade tree remain among the most effective ways to spread the word about the importance of good nutrition in improving maternal and infant health. It works all over the world, be it in Uganda, India, Guatemala or Chicago.