By Neha Raykar and Kavtia Chauhan, Public Health Foundation of India
Since the release of the India Health Report: Nutrition 2015 (IHR), the team has been engaged in disseminating the report at various platforms. We first launched the report in Delhi at a major event that featured the Ministers of Health, and Women and Child Development of the Government of India. This was a rare joint appearance of these two key Ministers and senior government officials to indicate broad support for an agenda to transform nutrition in India.
The IHR has made an impact at the national level and was cited in a draft plan of action of the Government of India in making the case for immediate action on nutrition. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, has published a draft National Plan of Action for Children, 2016 identifying the rights of Children under four key priority areas namely: survival, health and nutrition, education and development, protection and participation. The plan of action aims at establishing effective coordination and convergence among all stakeholders including Ministries and Departments of Government of India and Civil Society organizations to address key issues pertaining to rights of children. The draft plan cites the IHR in Chapter 2 titled ‘Children in India: Key Concerns’. These instances of the government’s interest in and use of the IHR are a good indication of the report’s use as an important information resource in policy planning.
IHR strongly advocates policy planning and action at the state level, given the variability in levels of undernutrition and its progress over time across the Indian states. In order to draw the attention of state level stakeholders including state governments to key IHR recommendations on strengthening multi sectoral nutrition action, we mailed out copies of the IHR to state level government officials in the departments of Health and Family Welfare and Women and Child Development.
Following this, we received a request from the Commissioner of Health and Family Welfare, Hyderabad, to prepare the state nutrition dashboard for the newly formed state of Telangana to help the department initiate necessary action for improvement in nutritional status in the state. The IHR excludes Telangana from its 29 state dashboards since most surveys and datasets used in the IHR predate the formation of the state in 2014. In response to this request from the commissioner, the team has now prepared a modified dashboard for Telangana using more recent alternative data sources and will be mailed to the commissioner this month.
We presented key insights from the IHR at a 1.5 day course titled ‘Catalyzing Action for Nutrition at the District-Level: What Will it Take?’ in May 2016 in Patna, Bihar. This was organized by POSHAN – led by IFPRI, in collaboration with CARE India and Alive & Thrive, Bihar, as part of a larger orientation program for CARE’s newly recruited District Officers for Nutrition (DONs) in Bihar. The DONs will work with the Nutrition Technical Support Unit (NTSU) to the Government of Bihar, and aim to increase conversations about nutrition among several branches of the state government. CARE envisions one DON for each of Bihar’s 38 districts, and already has 27 in place – 15 men and 12 women. POSHAN’s training covered basic concepts of nutrition, nutrition status and data available for India and Bihar, as well as multi sectoral efforts and leadership for nutrition. We received positive feedback on our presentation of the IHR state nutrition dashboard for Bihar. The officers appreciated it as a useful data tool encompassing a wide range of state level data from socioeconomic and demographic indicators to data on household expenditures on key food groups and government expenditures on key schemes that cover nutrition-specific and -sensitive interventions from multiple sources. Besides the dashboard, the DONs found particularly insightful the correlations of various determinants, both basic and underlying, with nutrition outcomes and were keen to use the key messages from the dashboard and correlation graphs in their dialogues with multiple sectors of the Bihar state government to improve multi sectoral involvement in catalyzing action for better nutrition.
We presented key findings from IHR for the state of Odisha at a meeting on ‘Data for nutrition decision-making and accountability in Odisha’ for senior state level bureaucrats in Bhubaneshwar in May, 2016. The meeting was organized by IFPRI in collaboration with Public Health Resource Network (PHRN). The meeting was attended by Principal Secretaries from departments of Health and Women and Child Development (WCD), other senior bureaucrats and key stakeholders/development partners from the state. The objective of the meeting was to consolidate insights from diverse data sources on nutrition in Odisha and facilitate a dialogue on data needs for nutrition decisions in the context of Odisha’s nutrition strategy. We received several important questions and comments about the presentation of IHR state nutrition dashboard for Odisha. There were requests for an updated dashboard once data from the latest round of the National family Health Survey is made available for Odisha. An important suggestion was to further analyse the reasons and possible pathways for the observed disparities in nutritional status across states. To this end, we are currently conducting further analysis of the improvements in nutrition at the state level and identifying the drivers that can possibly explain the difference in progress across states.
PHFI also organized a meeting on ‘Data for Nutrition: Role of Media in Strengthening Uptake of Nutrition Evidence’ with local media from the state of Madhya Pradesh. This was attended by over 50 journalists from print and television media. Details of this meeting are here.