evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

Posts Tagged ‘technology’

mHealth in Practice: Mobile technology for health promotion in the developing world

In Over-nutrition, Uncategorized, Under-nutrition on April 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

Edited by Jonathan Donner & Patricia Mechael – November 2012


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781780932798

(download the chapters)

There has recently been an explosion of interest around the application of mobile communication technologies to support health initiatives in developing countries (mHealth). As a result, there is a need to promote and share rigorous research for better informed policy, programming, and investment. There are, however, few platforms for the exchange of information and proven practice between practitioners and researchers.

The subtopic of prevention, well-being, and health promotion within mHealth is particularly ripe for deeper exploration. While many reports tout the potential of mobiles to influence behaviour change for health, there is limited knowledge about what works (and what does not work), and about how to evaluate current and future programs. This is a focused edited volume with contributions from leading researchers and practitioners to identify best practices in using mobile technologies to promote healthy behaviours (and reduce unhealthy ones) in resource-constrained settings with a special focus on developing countries.

This topic is inherently interdisciplinary. Though the opportunities to leverage mobile phones for health are new, the challenges confronting researchers and practitioners are well-established and theoretically complex, with roots in decades of work on mediated behaviour change campaigns and theories.

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Mobile phone technologies to improve the prevention and treatment of malnutrition?

In Under-nutrition on August 23, 2012 at 8:56 am

Source: Rapid SMS – http://www.rapidsms.org/

In 2011, WHO reports:

The use of mobile and wireless technologies to support the achievement of health objectives (mHealth) has the potential to transform the face of health service delivery across the globe.

A powerful combination of factors is driving this change. These include rapid advances in mobile technologies and applications, a rise in new opportunities for the integration of mobile health into existing eHealth services, and the continued growth in coverage of mobile cellular networks.” (download the entire doc)

(To learn more about m-Health, read this paper from the WHO Bulletin: Point of care in your pocket: a research agenda for the field of m-health)

The same WHO document mentions a wide range of  applications, but regretfully does not include the treatment or the prevention of malnutrition, although the potential is there. These are few examples:

  • In Kenya, in 2009, the Millennium Villages Project and the Columbia University looked into the use of SMS to support the community-based management of acute malnutrition in children under five. The pilot study concludes that “an
, which 

help in 
 (see the entire doc)
  • In Malawi, more recently, “UNICEF deployed SMS to address serious constraints within the national Integrated Nutrition and Food Security Surveillance (INFSS) System, which was facing slow data transmission, incomplete and poor quality data sets, high operational costs and low levels of stakeholder ownership.  Health workers now enter a child’s data, and through an innovative feedback loop system, Rapid SMS instantly alerts field monitors of their patients’ nutritional status. Automated basic diagnostic tests are now identifying more children with moderate malnutrition who were previously falling through the cracks.  This system also increased local ownership of the larger surveillance program through two-way information exchange.  Operational costs for the Rapid SMS system are significantly less than the current data collection system. The Government of Malawi is considering a national scale-up later this year” (read more here)
  • In the last 2 years, the same organization (Rapid SMS) has successfully piloted in Ethiopia a RUTF stock reporting and request system. This has the potential for improving the communications of stock levels and requests up the supply chain and consequently for avoiding supply breaks (more info here at page 42, and here)
  • WFP focuses on the prevention and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition and has also been involved with innovations using cash/vouchers and SMS for monitoring the implementation of programmes and for monitoring cases of malnutrition (read more at page 24 of this document)
  •  In 2011, UNICEF and Valid International undertook a “Global Mapping Review of Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition” (with a focus on Severe Acute Malnutrition). In countries of interest, the same document suggests a review of innovative technologies to improve information flow to national level. Those include the use of Rapid SMS to improve timeliness and quality of reporting.  “Many countries have started or are recommending use of Rapid SMS“, because “the large number of centres makes compilation & transmission difficult”. For this reason, moving “towards Rapid SMS to improve transmission” is crucial.

Some of the organizations with promising capacities to design SMS platforms, and helping in fighting malnutrition, are listed here:

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Note that:

the Forum on Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition will be preparing a more detailed Technical Brief on the subject of M-health and E-health in the coming months.

Feel free to contact the Forum, if you are interested in m-health & nutrition, or in any other aspect related to Community-management of Acute Malnutrition.

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Question: you know any other experience in this area of nutrition and m-health? Worth reporting on this blog? Please, share that: leave a comment (down here), or contact me.

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Save the Children (NGO) about treatment of Acute Malnutrition: Minimum Reporting Package User Guidelines

In Under-nutrition on August 21, 2012 at 10:46 am

(download the entire doc)

“These minimum Reporting Package (MRP) User Guidelines are intended to outline the definitions, reporting categories and performance indicators for monitoring and reporting on three feeding programmes using the MRP software.

“The programmes are: targeted Supplementary Feeding Programmes (SFPs), Outpatient Therapeutic Programmes (OTPs) and Stabilisation Centres (SCs).

“There is also guidance on interpreting and taking action on programme performance indicators.

“The audience for the guidelines are nutrition programme coordinators and M&E staff of NGOs involved in the monitoring and reporting process.”

On this blog you can find more information about management of acute malnutrition, and ready to use foods for undernutrition treatment.
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Open Source: a spread sheet application for planning, calculating and monitoring the Nutritional Value of food

In Under-nutrition on August 11, 2012 at 11:49 am

The planning, calculation, and monitoring application for food assistance programmes, NutVal 3.0 has an expanded database of commodities and products, and new population sub-groups to use for asssessing the adequacy of food assistance. NutVal is designed to run on Excel 2003 and later versions.

Download the most recent version of NutVal

NutVal was developed UNHCR, WFP, IGH/UCL and Global Nutrition Cluster.

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This blog hosts other posts related to the use of nutritional software.

How to design, pre-test and trial low cost, local RUTF products to rehabilitate severely malnourished children and adults

In Under-nutrition on August 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

The latest number of Field Exchange, a journal published by ENN, contains a summary of a recent research paper describing how to use “Linear programming to design low cost, local RUTF” with the aid of Microsoft Excel software.

Whereas the original paper abstract can be found on The Journal of Nutrition web site, in the Field Exchange journal (issue 43, part 1), the article summary is available (for free) at page 36, including an “adapted” flow chart with the step sequence proposed for the design (see beneath), the pre-testing and the trialling of these products, currently in high demand in feeding programmes around the world.

The authors of the original paper are Filippo Dibari (author also of this blog), El Hadji I. Diop, Steven Collins, and Andrew Seal from Valid International and the University College of London.

More information about the Linear Programming, applied to the field of nutrition, is also available from another post in this same blog.

Linear Programming in Nutrition: easy! Yes, but…only if somebody would have told me how to do it.

In Under-nutrition on May 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

This week I am working again for Valid International creating new formulations for feeding programmes in emergency settings. The software to create the theoretical formulation is a simple MS Excel sheet, using the add-in Solver. However the technique is based on linear programming : something very mysterious until few years ago for me, now much more accessible. Basically it is a mathematical approach to solve multi-factorial equations – scary isn’t it?

However, the potential use of Linear Programming (also) in nutrition is huge! You can design and assess diets and formulate new foods. Not only. As an example see this economic assessment of food prices using Linear Programming (Briend et al.). Or for the ones interested in therapeutic feeding, do not miss this paper.

For some simple theory  have a look at this UN document about  Linear Programming in nutrition, prepared by Andre’ Briend: very well done. If you are specifically interested on ready-to-use therapeutic food, see this recent paper. If you are looking for a simple software, try Nutrisurvey (the picture is from this software): a marvel work by Juergen Erhardt.

Question: are you a nutritionist or a food technologist? Did you receive a training in this amazing tool during your education? If not, why is it so? Do you think there is market out there for this?

My opinion – I had to learn myself… Interesting, but time demanding. As a nutritionist, or food technologist, my point is that this tool should be a compulsory part of our formal education (MSc, bachelor, etc.), just as much we learn about food and nutrient composition.

What is your point about it?



Find more information about LP also here.

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