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Supporting mothers to raise healthy children: the power of behaviour-change programming

14 June 2019

Project spotlight: Informing social and behaviour change communication programming and monitoring for India’s national nutrition mission.

IDinsight’s Divya Nair presents our findings on Poshan Abhiyaan’s Social and Behavior Change Communication at the National Council on India’s Nutrition Challenges. ©IDinsight/Nitya Agrawal

Nutritional deficiencies in the first 1000 days of life lead to chronic health problems (underweight, anaemia, wasting, and stunting) and poor cognitive outcomes. The public health community has identified behaviours such as breastfeeding exclusively and mothers eating diverse foods during pregnancy as helping improve a child’s health. Yet many caregivers in under-resourced communities either don’t know about these behaviours or know about them but don’t change their current behaviours. IDinsight is working with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and NITI Aayog to support India’s National Nutrition Mission, POSHAN Abhiyaan, on the best way to communicate nutritional best practices to pregnant and lactating women.

The NITI Health team interviews pregnant and lactating mothers on health and nutrition beliefs and practices. ©IDinsight/Nitya Agrawal

As part of its focus on Social & Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC), the National Nutrition Mission launched a month-long intensive educational campaign called POSHAN Maah (Nutrition Month) in September 2018. The following month, IDinsight conducted a survey of about 6,000 pregnant and lactating women across 27 of India’s poorest districts in eight states. The goal of the survey was to better understand the extent to which SBCC programming is influencing women. To this end, we surveyed women about whether they had heard and remembered nutrition messages from 21+ platforms ranging from mass media to interpersonal communication, and the extent to which women had the appropriate nutrition-related knowledge and practiced healthy behaviours. One key finding: we found home visits were the most effective way to reach women. We recently presented our findings at several forums including India’s National Council (pictured in cover photo) and the evidence is being used to inform national-level SBCC programming.

Figure 1: Survey results about reach of platforms. Community Engagement and Interpersonal Communication (IPC) platforms and television reach the most women.

IDinsight has also been engaged with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and NITI Aayog to develop and test monitoring tools for the Mission. Currently, India’s nutrition-related data exists in disparate sources, with no comprehensive, actionable monitoring framework or tools for government officials. Our work has been well received at forums such as “Nutrition Data Bonanza” hosted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation nutrition partners in April 2019 and we are refining the frameworks in collaboration with a number of partners for wider use.