The Safe and Secure Conference 

The Imperative of A Healthy 1st 1000 Days of Life

Community Children’s at CMC, Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists, Drs. Bardett Fausett & Bradley Holbrook have partnered with Dr. George Mulcaire-Jones to bring local and international speakers to discuss healthcare challenges and successes from conception to the first two years of life in different parts of the world.

The most critical time of human development is not pre-school, high-school, university or landing a first job. Rather, it is what happens during the first 1000 days of life – from conception through the age of two.

1000 days comes from adding three numbers:

  • 270 is the average number of days of human gestation
  • 365 days is from birth to age 1
  • 365 days is from age 1 to age 2

270 + 365 + 365 = 1000 days

During this time, billions of neurons are being formed and billions of neural networks are being laid down. The brain is differentiating into its parts, developing from a simple neural tube into the most complex organ in biological existence. Not only is the brain developing synapses with itself but it is also connecting with other rapidly developing organ systems. What occurs in these first 1000 days may bless or haunt a child for the remainder of their life. Malnutrition, birth difficulties, repetitive illnesses, and physical or emotional trauma experienced during the first 1000 days of life time can cause irreparable damage.  Yet, the opposite holds true: a healthy first 1000 days creates a platform for life-long physical, mental and emotional health.

The Safe and Secure Conference brings together a wide range of experts to examine the medical, social, international and public policy challenges of making the first 1000 days of life as healthy as possible. As part of the conference, we are bringing together maternal, fetal and newborn specialists from Community Children’s at Community Medical Center, public health experts from our Native American population and international representatives from Africa who have first-hand experience addressing the challenges within the first 1000 days of life.

Why 1000 days? Consider that in many regions of Africa, 40% of children are stunted. Stunting is a technical term that refers to a child never reaching their full height.  Yet, stunting also represents compromised neurological and immunological development.  Stunted children are more likely to die of childhood illnesses. They are more likely to fail in school and be unemployed. Girls who are stunted are more likely to have adverse reproductive health outcomes and give birth to stunted children themselves.

In the United States, there are a range of social, economic and relational problems that affect a child during the first 1000 days of life: perinatal drug use, extreme prematurity, domestic violence and lack of emotional bonding and attachment.  Many traumatic experiences that happen during the first 1000 days of life – from parental separation to violence in the home may forever alter a child’s nervous system and keep them from realizing their full human potential.

The poverty in Africa that leads to maternal deaths, newborn deaths and stillbirths is not the only poverty that affects the first 1000 days of life.  In the United States, we too often have a “poverty of relationship.”  Pregnant women and mothers caring for infants are often isolated. The father is absent or unwilling to help. Women are expected to return to work within 6 to 12 weeks after delivery. Social Security benefits do not factor in at all the contribution of women in raising children – there is zero “income” assigned to arguably the most important job of the universe.

The poet T.S Eliot famously wrote, “In the beginning is my end.” Little did he know those words were and accurate summation of the trajectory of human development. What happens to us in the very beginnings of life profoundly influences are future physical, mental and relational well-being. Safe and Secure is a wake-up a call, an opportunity to start the most important conversation of all: how will we make safe births and secure families a local and global reality.

An Interdisciplinary conference for maternal, perinatal, global health and public policy professionals.

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Agenda (PDF) >

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