Focusing on prevention
Ensuring appropriate nutrition early in life is critical for good health and future productivity. By emphasizing prevention of malnutrition, our programs contributed to reduced morbidity and mortality, improved school performance, and increased productivity later in life. IYCN supported families, communities, and countries in using optimal nutrition practices based on international recommendations. An important focus of our approach was to maximize HIV-free survival (e.g., both surviving and remaining HIV-free) by supporting HIV-positive mothers to safely implement optimal infant and young child feeding practices.
Infant and young child feeding happens at home, not in health facilities, so IYCN focused on solutions that started at the community level. We began by supporting health care providers and equipping them with the skills they need to support caregivers in optimally feeding their children. We trained a wide range of community workers to understand mothers’ current practices, constraints, and beliefs around feeding their children and to counsel them on the best ways to meet their children’s nutritional needs using their own resources.
We also helped communities support mothers’ decisions and overcome challenges and barriers to providing optimal feeding by engaging families through mother support groups, male groups, and grandmother groups. To enhance follow-up in the community and increase utilization of health services, we strengthened two-way referral systems between health facilities and communities.
IYCN strengthened health systems to build a supportive environment for nutrition counseling. We worked with partners and health workers to integrate nutrition into child health, antenatal care, maternity, HIV treatment, family planning, and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programs. Importantly, we collaborated with government to introduce supportive supervision procedures to enhance health workers’ skills.
Using a quality improvement approach, the project identified areas where improvements could be made in facility- and community-based nutrition services, and organized service providers to create solutions and assess progress.