First 1000 Days

The Health Foundation has adopted a core strategic focus for the next 3-5 years: Retaining our long-term vision of contributing to Health System Strengthening through our four key pillars, we will start where life starts: with a HEALTHY START TO LIFE. This aligns with the First 1000 Days initiative as well as global goals to improve maternal and child health.

Improving the well-being of mothers and children during the first 1 000-day window helps ensure children get the best start to life and the opportunity to reach their full potential. The period of pregnancy and the first 2 years of life (= 1000 days) offers a unique opportunity for enabling a bright, healthy and prosperous future.

Did you know? Children who get a "Healthy Start to Life" in the 1st 1000 days and beyond are ten times more likely to overcome life threatening childhood diseases, complete nearly five more grades in school, go on to earn 21% more in wages as adults and are more likely to have healthier families of their own .

The First 1000 Days initiative was launched by the Western Cape Government: Departments of Health and Social Development with the aim of raising awareness of the crucial first 1000 days of a child's life. The initiative aims to follow a whole society approach to improve the wellness of children in terms of:

  • Nutrition and Health;
  • Nurture, Care and Support (within the family, home and community);
  • Safety, Protection and Stimulation for early learning.

Opportunities across the life course and for the whole family will be optimized i.e. Adolescence, pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, the first 2 years of life and beyond.

In South Africa a family's journey through the first 1000 days is much tougher in a context of poverty, unemployment, difficult access to healthcare and inadequate psychosocial support. Fortunately, state antenatal and child health care services are free, and numerous organizations exist to offer support through this crucial time. But much more can be done to promote healthy behaviors during this time; enhance the linkages between services; and improve the patient experience along this precious journey.


The Health Foundation's Healthy Start to Life strategy will support the First 1000 Days initiative through our unique contribution. We will aim to:

  • Offer strategic support to key stakeholders who share the goal of promoting a healthy start to life
  • Identify priority gaps and opportunities for strengthening the health system
  • Facilitate and support innovative, evidence-based initiatives to utilise these opportunities and make a sustainable difference
  • Mobilise and manage resources for these initiatives

We envision an energized, strengthened and resourced network of role-players who harness and gather their best efforts to make the beginning of each human life the healthiest it can be. This means a more successful trajectory throughout life, more positive contribution to society, and reduced burden on the health system and other state services. Now isn't that a smart investment?

Talk to us about how you can contribute to this vital initiative and subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date.


iShaw.M.2015.Gazing into the 1000 Days Window.

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