Operational Research

Two studies, ENGINE (Empowering New Generations to Improve Nutrition and Economic opportunities) and Growth through Nutrition, were conducted in the same 4 regions of Ethiopia approximately 5 years apart. A similar protocol using a quantitative and qualitative survey of key informants at the subnational level was used to explore barriers and facilitators for implementation of the country’s national multisector nutrition plan. Noticeable differences were observed, including a change in the perception of the nutrition problems in pregnant women and preschool aged children and greater awareness of the multisector plan. Poor coordination and collaboration were still noted in both time periods. A key issue highlighted was the need to keep up the momentum for multisector approaches to improve nutrition in the policy agenda. Collaboration with the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI). 

Despite its widespread use, there is still a need for more evidence on the effectiveness of social and behavior change communication (SBCC) with consideration for the various approaches, dose/response, cost effectiveness and scalability of tools and activities in impacting various nutrition and agricultural outcomes. While a recent systematic review from USAID SPRING looked at peer reviewed evidence of impact of SBCC on nutrition specific outcomes, it was limited to maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation, breastfeeding and complementary feeding. Therefore, summarizing available evidence on SBCC effectiveness in targeting nutrition sensitive activities and nutrition specific activities which were not addressed by previous reviews is crucial and timely and will be addressed in this activity. 

Assessing Multisectoral Coordination for Nutrition Policy Effectiveness:  Analysis of Facilitators, Constraints and Solutions for Effective Implementation at the Woreda Level

This new research conducted during the first year of Growth through Nutrition was designed to follow up on the support provided under ENGINE, especially to model woredas in supporting the establishment and ongoing implementation of the woreda multisectoral coordination bodies and nutrition technical committees and to ascertain the factors that have enabled and sustained effective multisectoral coordination.

The research aims at evaluating the barriers and facilitating factors that influence household nutrition practices and decision-making with regard to the production, consumption, utilization, sale and purchase of nutrient-rich foods. The study tries to understand the dynamics of household food production and dietary management in order to inform the project’s nutrition sensitive agricultural packages and SBCC strategy.The purpose of the study is to inform Growth through Nutrition activities that support and train rural farming households on consumption and marketing of nutrient-rich foods to better ensure that production investment, as well as other market-based strategies result in positive dietary benefits.

Improving key nutrition practices requires change at the individual, household, and community levels, and in services for mothers and families—all of which must be supported by an enabling environment. Growth through Nutrition Activity includes SBCC activities as part of its strategic approach to bring about significant and sustainable improvements in maternal dietary and infant and young child feeding practices. The project works to ensure that consistent, locally adapted, actionable messages are reinforced at each level for interventions to be more likely to result in significant improvements in the short term and sustainable progress in the long term. In addition to the existing SBCC approach under Growth through Nutrition, a new tool designed to complement the ECCs called the Virtual Facilitator (VF), a pre-recorded audio message with actors modelling the desired knowledge and behaviours, is anticipated to make the SBCC program more robust and scalable. Therefore, the objective of the study is to evaluate the added value of the virtual facilitator tool to the existing ECC program for improving IYCF practice and nutritional status of women and children in Ethiopia under the Growth through Nutrition Activity program.

As the preliminary assessment in the development of the learning agenda, Tufts University conducted a research and learning landscape assessment to better understand the local research and knowledge management landscape around Nutrition, WASH, and Agriculture in Ethiopia and its potential strengths, challenges, gaps and opportunities.  The assessment allowed Tufts to identify partnerships and opportunities for collaboration, prevent duplication of efforts, maximize efficiency and effective use of resources, and design a learning agenda and knowledge management strategy that is supportive and responsive to the needs and challenges of the local research community.

Despite its widespread use, there is still a need for more evidence on the effectiveness of social and behavior change communication (SBCC) with consideration for the various approaches, dose/response, cost effectiveness and scalability of tools and activities in impacting various nutrition and agricultural outcomes. While a recent systematic review from USAID SPRING looked at peer reviewed evidence of impact of SBCC on nutrition specific outcomes, it was limited to maternal nutrition during pregnancy and lactation, breastfeeding and complementary feeding. Therefore, summarizing available evidence on SBCC effectiveness in targeting nutrition sensitive activities and nutrition specific activities which were not addressed by previous reviews is crucial and timely and will be addressed in this activity. 

Assessing Multisectoral Coordination for Nutrition Policy Effectiveness:  Analysis of Facilitators, Constraints and Solutions for Effective Implementation at the Woreda Level

This new research conducted during the first year of Growth through Nutrition was designed to follow up on the support provided under ENGINE, especially to model woredas in supporting the establishment and ongoing implementation of the woreda multisectoral coordination bodies and nutrition technical committees and to ascertain the factors that have enabled and sustained effective multisectoral coordination.

It order to properly monitor and evaluate project implementation, it was requried to set base values for its identified indicators measuring results in areas of maternal and child nutrition; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and behaviors related to utilization of quality nutrition services and utilization of WASH products and services. The Activity therefore conducted a baseline survey to set base values for these selected indicators and also that will [1] provide management with benchmark to periodically assess the advancement towards set targets, as well as comparing improvements in livelihood and improved nutrition during the implementation; [2] provide current quantitative data and inform possible strategy and target revision/verification; and [3] assess the current state of women and children’s health, nutrition and access to services. 

  • new-logo