Community Institutions Galvanizing Behaviour Change for Improving Health and Nutrition Status

Community Institutions Galvanizing Behaviour Change for Improving Health and Nutrition Status

DAY- National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) is a flagship programme of Ministry of Rural Development for eradication of rural poverty through promotion of community institutions and development of sustainable livelihoods practices.
As on July 2020, around 7 crore households have been mobilized into 63 lakh Self-Help Groups (SHG) under the National Mission. The community institutions have been actively engaged in livelihoods activities and other convergence activities e.g POSHAN Abhiyaan, Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Gram Panchayat Development Plan etc.
Also, the community institutions have responded effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic by undertaking various activities such as production of masks, sanitizers, awareness generation on preventive measures for COVID-19, running community kitchens etc. This exhibits immense potential of these community institutions and ability to respond to the emerging needs.
Aiming at holistic development of the community, National Mission is working towards the poverty alleviation of the rural poor households along with the focus on Social Inclusion and Social Development agenda. For improving health and nutrition status, focus is being given on both nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive key messages encompassing issues pertaining to Food, Nutrition, Health and WASH. Presently, it is also one of the most important National priorities emphasized by the Government leadership which is reflected from initiatives like POSHAN Abhiyaan, Fit India movement, Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan, Jal Shakti etc. Optimal health and nutrition status of the community is vital for realization of an Atmanirbhar Bharat. To achieve this, National Mission’s approach is to strengthen the community institutions to appreciate the importance of good health and nutrition status, access their rights and entitlements and demand quality service delivery.
The Mission is focussing on promotion of behaviour change for adopting recommended health and nutrition practices through awareness on key behaviours and creation of demand for quality services, enhancing capacities of community institutions, convergence with the relevant departments for improved access to services and promotion of utilization of products like low cost sanitary napkins, nutritious snacks etc produced by the SHG members through setting up of enterprises under DAY-NRLM.
State missions like Bihar (JEEViKA), Chhattisgarh (Bihan), Odisha (Odisha Livelihoods Mission), Maharashtra (Umed), Andhra Pradesh etc with support from World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF have initiated integration of health and nutrition interventions in the community institutions and encouraging results and learning have emerged from the implementation experience. Leveraging on the learning, national mission has started encouraging other state missions to initiate interventions suited to state specific issues and priorities.
Ministry of Rural Development is also partnering with Ministry of Women and Child Development to support dissemination of key messages to the members of the SHG under Jan Andolan, POSHAN Abhiyaan. It is envisaged that around 7 crore members of the SHG will take forward the messages to their households and other members of the community. Ministry has been participating in events organized under the POSHAN Abhiyaan across the State Missions. Last year during the POSHAN Maah, the Mission organized 11.39 lakh activities with 16.39 crore participants. This year also, State Missions are observing on-going Poshan Maah and organizing activities focussing on breast feeding, complementary feeding, importance of early identification of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition and promotion of nutrition garden. State missions have been advised to take special attention on following COVID-19 protocols while conducting activities during the Poshan Maah. As per initial information received from the state missions, activities like discussion on identified themes in group meetings, competitions on nutritious recipes made from local food items, poshan rangoli, promotion of nutrition gardens, coordination with ASHA and Anganwadi etc are being conducted on the field.
Events like Poshan Maah are a good opportunity to catalyse better convergence and coordination amongst the relevant departments and frontline functionaries. However, there is a need to capitalize on created momentum and build sustained mechanisms for convergence and coordination amongst the frontline functionaries for achieving the desired goals. This is particularly important during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic that demands synchronization of efforts to ensure better outreach, service delivery and promotion of relevant issues like importance of building immunity, having a nutritious diet, adoption of COVID-19 preventive measures and promotion of health seeking behaviour to avoid getting infected from COVID-19 and minimize its adverse effects.
Building on the strength of the National Mission i.e social capital, nationwide trainings were organized on preventive measures of COVID-19 during the months of May and June, 2020 covering staff and community cadre. Online trainings were provided up to the block level by the National Mission Management Unit under the National Mission with the support from technical agencies i.e National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Bill and Melindia Gates Foundation supported TRIF and Project Concern International and UNICEF supported Roshni Centre with Lady Irwin College, University of Delhi. Further trainings were provided in cascade mode up to the SHG and community level. More than 5 crore community members including SHG and community were covered along with the mission staff through these trainings.
Concerted efforts by the different departments towards the attainment of common goal i.e improved health and nutrition status through events like Poshan Maah under POSHAN Abhiyaan provide an opportunity to synchronize initiatives, forge inter-department/agencies collaborations and effective coordination amongst the frontline functionaries. This will help in addressing multi sectoral health and nutrition issues through harmonized efforts of multi-disciplinary departments and agencies on the field.

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