Child undernutrition has historically been – and continues to be – one of the most serious health and development issues we face today. The good news: This problem is preventable.

This morning, I joined leaders of governments, international organizations, civil society groups, and private sector companies in creating a collective global commitment to improve child nutrition during the 1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future event in New York City.

The 1,000-day window, beginning from a woman’s pregnancy until her child is two years old, is critical to a child’s ability to thrive for a lifetime. We know that healthy children are more likely to get an education and to contribute to their communities when they become adults. The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Framework, which I helped launch in April this year, points to strong evidence that interventions during this critical time can save lives. The Framework seeks to accelerate the international community’s efforts to combat undernutrition through strengthening partnerships.  Today’s event was an opportunity to highlight the SUN Framework and outline a way forward through the SUN Roadmap, which United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon launched this morning.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton co-hosted today’s event with Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin. They voiced their strong support for the SUN Roadmap and called on leaders across the globe to act on specific targets toward improving nutrition — and thus the health, education, and economic opportunities — for people most in need.

Stressing action and accountability, Secretary Clinton said, “The Scaling Up Nutrition roadmap, the so-called SUN roadmap, that is unveiled today will be a critical tool for coordinating our efforts, and it will be up to us to follow that roadmap to our destination.”

Nutrition is key to the success of the Millennium Development Goals.  It is also a major objective of both Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative.  Nutrition is integral to USAID’s development programs across sectors.  We create and support agriculture programs that not only improve access to food, but also aim to improve the quality of food produced.  We are implementing humanitarian assistance programs for the most vulnerable that aim to prevent undernutrition—rather than treat it when it might be too late.  And through our health programs, we deliver a package of nutrition interventions—and maximize the benefits to women and young children by coupling these packages with clean water, sanitation, and hygiene programs, infectious disease interventions, and efforts to strengthen health systems.

To be successful, global efforts require engagement from all levels – from donor governments to the private sector, from civil society to international organizations. Today’s event was evidence of the enormous momentum across the international community to break the cycle of hunger and undernutrition. Our collective challenge is to harness this momentum and translate it into concrete actions and support countries at the implementation level. We know this challenge is large, but we also know that global action and strong partnerships produce tremendous results: We have seen the incidence of polio drop by over 99 percent since 1988; we are making significant strides against HIV/AIDS; and we have celebrated remarkable gains in maternal mortality reduction.

It is our responsibility to seize this moment to help children—at a time before they can help themselves—to realize their potential.