USAID Advancing Nutrition seeks to improve the coverage and quality of nutrition services. Digital tools can play an important role in that effort. They can guide service providers through the delivery of nutrition services such as the assessment of nutritional status, growth monitoring, and tracking developmental milestones. They can suggest next steps and even appropriate counseling topics. Digital tools can be used to create a longitudinal record of growth measurements, providing health workers with more information to inform their care and counseling. They can also inform managers and supervisors of gaps in service coverage and quality by providing timely access to data. Over the past 10 years, the use of digital applications by health programs and for health service delivery has grown from small pilot projects to national-scale deployments in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
Using Digital Tools for Nutrition
USAID Advancing Nutrition conducted a landscape analysis to explore how digital tools have been used for the delivery of nutrition services, in 2020. Through a blog and panel presentation at the Global Digital Health Forum, we spread the word and shared resources so that other countries and projects can explore or scale up similar tools.
In 2021, we took a closer look at how digital tools can be used for improving growth monitoring and promotion (GMP). At least 178 countries provide GMP services for infants and young children; however, height and weight measurements are often inaccurate, tracking growth can be confusing, and counseling is frequently absent, not based on the caregiver’s needs or child’s growth, or of poor quality. In the right circumstances, a digital tool could help address some of these weaknesses.
We reviewed global recommendations, training packages, national protocols, and counseling materials related to GMP and developed generic versions of the documents needed by programmers to develop digital tools for tracking information and supporting decisions by service providers and their supervisors. These documents and the accompanying guidance can be used to facilitate the development and use of digital tools for improving GMP services across a variety of contexts. In 2022, we will validate the guidance package through in-country testing and global consultation.
In the future, we hope to explore additional opportunities to encourage the appropriate use of digital tools to support service providers and supervisors, and assess the effectiveness of digital tools in improving the coverage and quality of nutrition services.