Improving Dietary and Health Data for Decision-Making


Summary video link


Project Description

Although “[m]alnutrition overall remains an immense and universal problem, with at least one in three people globally experiencing malnutrition in some form” information on nutrition is scarce in many of the poorest and most malnourished regions of the world (Global Nutrition Report, 2017, p. 17). To address this information deficit, the IBLI team is developing and implementing a low-cost, near-real-time digital approach to tracking and disseminating information on household consumption and child health in remote dryland regions.

The key to our approach is providing the households' primary caregivers with tools by which they can collect and submit data directly and easily. We believe that this will reduce the cost of data collection dramatically, allowing for higher frequency and more extensive coverage than has been available by conventional methods.


Research Overview

Standard approaches to measuring and monitoring nutrition status are either extremely costly or rely on spot checks and recall information, which can suffer both from non-representativeness and inaccuracies. Furthermore, neither approach provides the cost-effective, accurate, real-time, and repeated measures across seasons that are required to precisely track nutritional dynamics over time or to monitor for nutrition-related disasters, such a famine.

We will develop and test a mobile-based tool by which caregivers can collect, submit, and receive information on their own and their children’s health and nutrition status. The value of this approach will be assessed using parallel data collected by Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) from the same study households in the same period. Our assessment will focus on identifying which indicators caregivers are willing and able to collect information on repeatedly and accurately. Further, we will assess the costs and benefits of such data compared to the existing systems.


Research Activities

The mobile-based platform under development allows household members to record, submit, and monitor information on their nutrition intake and the health status of the children living in the household. The platform uses icons, figures, and audio so that literacy is not required to submit or receive information. Household members will be trained on both submitting information as well as understanding and acting on the information reported by the platform.

​In the initial pilot stage, the project is using trained technicians (CHVs) to collect household data in parallel to the household-collected data. The CHV-collected data will provide a benchmark by which to learn about the accuracy of the household-collected data and the trade-offs in cost, frequency, and accuracy, between lower frequency data collected by “experts” and higher frequency data collected by households.

Findings to Date

We have developed and are pre-piloting two mobile-based tools. The first is for caregivers and allows them to collect, submit, and receive information on their own and their children’s nutritional status and health. The second tool is for CHVs. This tool includes a survey similar to that of the caregiver which will provide the benchmark data. 


The CHV tool also includes additional indicators such as age, weight, and height, which are needed for calculating important indicators of nutritional status—stunting and wasting—but require specific apparatus which the caregivers do not have.

We will begin the data collection phase of the pilot in the second half of 2019.

Outputs and Communications

Blog on piloting activities in Samburu County. 

Blog on field work and projectmanagement during the COVID lockdown 

Project 2-pager: Improving Dietary and Health Data for Decision-Making in Agriculture and Nutrition Actions in Africa

ILRI press release: A new project promises to generate better dietary and health data for agriculture and nutrition interventions in Africa


IDRC press release: Improving Dietary and Health Data for Decision-Making in Agriculture and Nutrition Actions in Africa

Journal Articles:

Implementing Partners

Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Funded by

International Development Research Centre (IDRC)

Project Timeline

2018 - 2022


Nathaniel Jensen