Investing in Your Family's Long-Term Health
For as long as Natural Resources has been around (30 years in Spring 2018!), its stewards have taken up the challenge of arguing for the education, empowerment, and support that it offers as a non-negotiable need of all new parents. We asked Bina Patel Shrimali, SF mother and PhD in Public Health, to give us her perspective on the importance of organizations like Natural Resources.
Natural Resources is so grateful for Bina's clear articulation of the importance of community and support for all new parents as we continue to work towards balance and sustainability for this 30 year old organization.
Please consider becoming a Friend of Natural Resources to ensure our legacy and viability so that we can continue supporting new families for another 30 years.
In Love and Community, Ginny Zeppa
Investing in Your Family's Long-Term Health by Bina Patel Shrimali
When my son was born seven years ago, it was by far the biggest challenge of my life. Natural Resources was a source of compassion, care, and answers. My darling boy, who is now an unflagging source of positive energy, was anything but in his first months. He cried when in his stroller, cried in his carseat, and cried when I strapped him in the carrier that a friend had sworn by. Natural Resources staff were so kind and compassionate. They demonstrated for me the fastest way to strap him into a carrier and talked through options that he might like. And after trying out a couple different carriers through their lending library, I finally found the one that worked for the two of us. If it weren’t for them, I would have never been able to leave the house. For little and big things, Natural Resources proved over and over again to be a source of support and information when I needed it most.
They took care of me so I could take care of my baby.
Really, nothing is more critical in the first months and years of life. As a public health professional, I believe that support for new moms is one of the most critical things we can do to ensure our lifelong health.
The Research is Clear
There is no more important time in the development of health and well-being than during pregnancy and early in life. During early development humans are arguably as smart as they ever get – absorbing everything around them at an unbelievably rapid pace and growing more neural connections than any other stage of life.
There is a growing body of research in support of the long arc of early life. For example, there is evidence that experiences in utero, such as prenatal undernutrition and maternal stress during pregnancy, can modify developmental biology in offspring in a fashion that elevates risk of developing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease decades later. It has also been shown that children who are born early or small and those that face early childhood adversities are at risk for behavioral problems, social-emotional difficulties, lower academic achievement and economic earnings, and diminished health as adults.
A Paradigm Shift in Health: Nature AND Nurture
The age-old debate of nature over nurture has recently become an obsolete question. We have learned that genes are activated through experiences and environments, often those in the earliest stages of life, and then are passed on to offspring, encoding susceptibility to disease into the next generation. This is the link to understanding how to ensure intergenerational health: if we create environments and opportunities for healthy development during critical time periods, we are investing in our future. While there is much we do not know about the mechanics of gene-environment interactions, we do know that giving children a good start in life is our best chance to create lifelong health and well-being.
Natural Resources: We are in this Together
Giving children the best start means supporting their families and caregivers. A loving, secure and reliable relationship with a parent or caregiver supports a child’s emotional well-being, brain development, language development and ability to learn, and capacity to form and maintain positive relationships with others. Natural Resources supports these formative and essential relationships by providing the knowledge, resources, and human connection essential to growing families. As Natural Resources is now a nonprofit organization and is working to serve all families, they are poised to create a long-lasting impact on so many families.
Our future prosperity as a nation depends on a healthy and well-educated population capable of contributing to our collective economic and social well-being. We must make more investments in our youngest residents and the families and communities that surround them to achieve this vision. Natural Resources is a critical resource in unlocking our potential by ensuring the health and well-being of children from the earliest phases of life.
If I could wave a magic wand, I would put a Natural Resources within four blocks of every new mother. The science is undoubtable – if we want healthy families and healthy communities, places like Natural Resources are a necessity, not a luxury._________________________________________________________________________
Bina Patel Shrimali specializes in research, design, and innovation for solving public health problems. She holds a doctorate in public health from UC Berkeley.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Healthy Outcomes. Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention. (Behrman RE, Butler AS, eds.). Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2007. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11362/.
Shonkoff JP, Garner AS, Health TC on PA of C and F, et al. The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. Pediatrics. 2012;129(1):e232-e246. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2663.
Health matters: giving every child the best start in life - GOV.UK. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-giving-every-child-the-best-start-in-life/health-matters-giving-every-child-the-best-start-in-life. Accessed November 3, 2017.