Mobile-Based Nutrition and Child Health Monitoring to Inform Program Development: An Experience From Liberia.
BACKGROUND: Implementing complex nutrition and other public health projects and tracking nutrition interventions, such as women’s diet and supplementation and infant and young child feeding practices, requires reliable routine data to identify potential program gaps and to monitor trends in behaviors in real time. However, current monitoring and evaluation practices generally do not create an environment for this real-time tracking. This article describes the development and application of a mobile-based nutrition and health monitoring system, which collected monitoring data on project activities, women’s nutrition, and infant and young child feeding practices in real time.
PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: The Liberia Agricultural Upgrading Nutrition and Child Health (LAUNCH) project implemented a nutrition and health monitoring system between April 2012 and June 2014. The LAUNCH project analyzed project monitoring and outcome data from the system and shared selected behavioral and programmatic indicators with program managers through a short report, which later evolved into a visual data dashboard, during program-update meetings. The project designed protocols to ensure representativeness of program participants.
FINDINGS: LAUNCH made programmatic adjustments in response to findings from the monitoring system; these changes were then reflected in subsequent quarterly trends, indicating that the availability of timely data allowed for the project to react quickly to issues and adapt the program appropriately. Such issues included lack of participation in community groups and insufficient numbers of food distribution points. Likewise, the system captured trends in key outcome indicators such as breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, linking them to project activities and external factors including seasonal changes and national health campaigns.
CONCLUSION: Digital data collection platforms can play a vital role in improving routine programmatic functions. Fixed gathering locations such as food distribution points represent an opportunity to easily access program participants and enable managers to identify strengths and weaknesses in project implementation. For programs that track individuals over time, a mobile tool combined with a strong database can greatly improve efficiency and data visibility and reduce resource leakages.