Strengthening health systems is essential for building a supportive environment for nutrition assessment, counseling, and support. A systematic approach is needed to help implement new guidelines and standards and to give community- and facility-based health providers a way to implement new approaches and provide improved services for mothers and children.
In the countries where we worked, health officials and providers needed assistance integrating nutrition into existing health care services and improving linkages between health facility- and community-based services in order to effectively reach caregivers with nutrition interventions.
We worked with partners and health workers to address the quality of nutrition services through quality improvement approaches and by initiating two-way referral systems between health facilities and communities.
By developing and sharing tools for monitoring nutrition programs, we improved program managers’ decision-making and the effectiveness of interventions. These efforts resulted in improved nutrition services and strengthened the overall delivery of health services—ensuring improved health care for mothers and children.
In Zambia and other countries, IYCN enhanced health service delivery by facilitating a seamless continuum of care from health facilities to communities. Community health workers and volunteers were the key to building links between critical health services and households that most needed them.
We trained Zambian community volunteers to assist overburdened health workers with tasks such as conducting nutritional assessments, home visits, and cooking demonstrations, and making appropriate referrals for services, while theater groups reinforced key messages through frequent community performances on infant and young child feeding.
Through strengthened two-way referral systems, volunteers referred mothers of children who were not growing well to community health centers and hospitals, which in turn, referred discharged children to community health volunteers for follow-up. As a result, more caregivers received consistent messages across the continuum of care, and referrals between health facilities and communities increased.
Photo: PATH/Evelyn Hockstein, Tina Kaonga