Malnutrition has been a persistent challenge, particularly among the vulnerable sections of children and women in the country. India had, relatively, some of the worst numbers for malnutrition in the world.The first National Family Health Survey (NFHS) in 1992-1993 found that India was one of the worst performing countries on child health indicators.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development has consistently aimed at addressing the malaise of malnutrition through systemic interventions and programmes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), including Supplementary Nutrition Programme, providing health supplementary meals / fortified ration to the most vulnerable, namely, children under the age of 6 years, pregnant women, lactating mothers and adolescent girls.
In the endeavour to tackle malnutrition in a targeted manner, the PM’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition or POSHAN Abhiyan was launched in 2018, with an aim to address issues of undernutrition, stunting, Anemia, low birth weight etc in a mission mode. Convergence with Partner Ministries / Departments, Focus on Behaviour Change Communication through Community Based Events and Jan Andolanand Use of Technology to ensure effective monitoring, are, inter alia, the core planks of the Abhiyan.
The Government, under the leadership of Hon’ble PM has time and again emphasised the power of technology as a potent tool for improving service delivery outcomes. It is in line with this spirit, that Poshan Tracker Application was launched in 2021. The Poshan Tracker App was launched with a vision to digitise data/ record related to malnutrition and service delivery under ICDS from Anganwadi Centres across the country, paving the way for near-real time monitoring and enabling policies for targeted intervention.
Under POSHAN Abhiyan, for the first time, Anganwadi Centres / Workers were equipped with a Smartphones. Technology under Poshan Tracker is being leveraged for dynamic identification of stunting, wasting, under-weight prevalence among children; and last mile tracking of nutrition service delivery.
Collecting daily data from over 13.9 lakh operational Anganwadi centres covering over 9.8 crore beneficiaries, the Tracker enable real-time monitoring and tracking of all Anganwadi centres, Anganwadi workers and beneficiaries on defined indicators including Anganwadi workers’ service deliveries and complete beneficiary management for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. It also helps supervisors and program officials to access a web-based dashboard to track progress and plug the gaps in the supply chain of the service delivery. This real-time monitoring tracks the centres, workers and beneficiaries providing a holistic overview of the progress of the program. It is available in regional languages, other than Hindi and English.
It has been the consistent effort of the Ministry to ensure last mile tracking of delivery of services. To bring about the same, beneficiaries registered on the Poshan Tracker are Aadhar seeded. Where the Aadhar of a child is not available, the facility of linking it with the mother’s Aadhar is provisioned. Aadhar seeding of the beneficiaries will help in ensuring that there is a mechanism to monitor and track service delivery up to the last mile and there is no leakage or bogus entries. As on date, close to 82% of the beneficiaries have been Aadhar seeded
Further, the Poshan Tracker has facilitated true universalisation of Anganwadi Services by enabling the migration module. The migration module in the Tracker allows seamless transfer of beneficiary records from one Anganwadi Centre to other , either within a state or across States, thus facilitating the beneficiaries to access services from anywhere in the country
Data and evidence and feedback loops are critical for decision making and altering program design to benefit uptake of services. POSHAN Tracker is not just data tracking mechanism, but it serves as a real time monitor of efficiency and effectiveness of the nutrition program and its service delivery. An integration of the Tracker with other programmatic tools such as RCH portal of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will ensure holistic picture of health and nutrition indicators of the beneficiaries.
It has been just 1.5 years since the launch of the Poshan Tracker. Dealing with a large volume of data on a day-to-day basis from over 13 lakh Anganwadi centres, the potential of the Tracker for assessing nutritional outcomes is unlimitedonce the system stabilizes. Perhaps in no other country in the world, is an intervention programme on such a large scale being conducted. So far, data of undernutrition was available through the NFHS reports, which are periodic and cover a sample size of households. However, collecting and monitoring health and nutrition indicators of every single beneficiary registered under the Anganwadi services facilitating better and more effective interventions, is unprecedented.
Hon’ble Prime Minister has maintained that,technology transforms people's lives. From mitigating poverty to simplifying processes, ending corruption to providing better services, technology is omnipresent. It has become the single-most important instrument of human progress.
India can leverage its demographic dividend and human capital when its children and youth are healthy and well nourished. We realise that malnutrition is not only a problem for a suffering child, but it also contributes to a familial and social burden while cutting across socio-economic groups in the country. When it comes to building a strong and healthy population, correct nutrition, aided with the right progress in technology can help reverse malnutrition and impede its ill effects significantly. By spreading the mission of holistic nutrition and overall health awareness, we are ensuring a healthy future for the children and women of India.
(The Author is Secretary Ministry of Women and Child Development, Govt of India)
Box: India can leverage its demographic dividend and human capital when its children and youth are healthy and well nourished. We realise that malnutrition is not only a problem for a suffering child, but it also contributes to a familial and social burden while cutting across socio-economic groups in the country