How to Use Mobile Tools to Improve Nutrition Around the World

October 8, 2019

The second of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is “Zero Hunger.” Its objective, predictably, is to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”

But when it comes to nutrition, more than just hunger is at play. The effects of good nutrition on a population can spread other SDGs, such as good health and well-being (SDG #3) and even poverty reduction (SDG #1).

The World Health Organization’s Assistant Director-General for Healthier Populations, Dr. Naoko Yamamoto, explains:

“Achieving one billion more people enjoying better health and well-being entails addressing the determinants and risks to health through multisectoral actions, not limited to the health system alone, and focusing on health, functioning and well-being, not mortality alone. Nutrition is a key determinant of healthier populations, and malnutrition in all its forms is a key risk factor, with serious impact on morbidity and human capital across the life-course.”

In support of these goals, WHO has released “Essential Nutrition Actions,” a guide to interventions that will help organizations “in decision-making processes for integration of nutrition interventions in national health policies, strategies, and plans based on country-specific needs and global priorities.” The guide includes a checklist of essential nutrition actions, a framework for how to evaluate next steps, and a summary of additional WHO publications and recommendations for nutrition programs.

Dimagi’s efforts to support nutrition programs around the world are wide-ranging, with CommCare tracking 10% of malnourished children in India and 1 in 50 malnourished children in world. The platform helps programs diagnose problems 41% faster than paper tools, so community health workers spend more time registering new patients and administering better care to the ones they have. Two of the key projects using CommCare to support their nutrition programs are the largest mHealth program in the world and a mobile dietary assessment platform in Burkina Faso and Vietnam:

ICDS-CAS

India

Malnutrition has been identified as an area of high concern in India by the government. As NFHS-IV survey (undertaken in 2015-16), which was published, the following facts were highlighted:

  • “In India, 38 percent of children under age five years are stunted (too short for their age). This is a sign of chronic undernutrition.” 
  • “Twenty-one percent of children under age five years are wasted (too thin for their height), which is a sign of acute undernutrition, while 36 percent of children under age five years are underweight.”
  • “Two percent of children are overweight.”
  • “Children born to thin mothers (BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2) are more likely to be stunted, wasted, and underweight than children born to mothers with a normal BMI or children whose mothers are overweight/obese.”
  • “Stunting is higher among children in rural areas (41%) than urban areas (31%).” 

The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) program was launched by the government of India in 1975 and has grown to be the largest community health program in the world. With 1.4 million community health workers, called Anganwadi workers (AWWs), the Ministry of Women and Child Development is able to provide maternal and child health services, including food, preschool education, and growth monitoring to children up to six years old at their small facilities across the country, called Anganwadi centers.

Launched in March 2017, the Integrated Child Development Services-Common Application Software (ICDS-CAS) is the largest e-nutrition program in the world. The application serves as a key pillar of POSHAN Abhiyaan, the Indian Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nourishment. Supporting more than 210,000 frontline workers across 16 states and 121 districts in India, ICDS-CAS helps tackle malnutrition by digitally equipping community health workers with a mobile solution that improves service delivery and enables effective monitoring, timely interventions, and enhanced decision support.

The early success of ICDS-CAS, which tracks one in 110 births and one in 50 malnourished children in the world, has prompted the government of India to scale the program to cover all 36 states and 718 districts in India by 2020. At full scale, ICDS-CAS will track one in five of the world’s malnourished children.

The INDDEX Project

Burkina Faso, Vietnam

The INDDEX Project is a joint project with Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and other international experts. The objective of the research is to help countries to increase food and nutrient consumption data collection and use in order to create more evidence-based decisions about agriculture, food, and nutrition policies and programs. 

Collecting and analyzing accurate data on individual nutrient consumption in low-income countries is regarded as costly and complex. Most countries do not have a scalable tool for collecting and using dietary data.

INDDEX24 is a mobile dietary assessment platform that utilizes environment-specific input databases to conduct 24-hour dietary recalls. To date, the mobile platform has been tested in Burkina Faso and Vietnam.

The project’s core objectives are:

  1. Development of technologies to standardize and streamline the collection and analysis of individual-level dietary data; 
  2. Improve the design and use of the food data collected in household consumption and expenditure surveys; 
  3. Demonstrate how to appropriately use ‘fit-for-purpose’ indicators and analyses from dietary intake data, HCES, and food balance data;
  4. Develop guidance that will effectively communicate these scientific advancements and technological achievements to international stakeholders.


To learn more about how CommCare is used to support nutrition programs around the world, click here.

Written by
Dimagi

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