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Re: The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition

Ms. Archana Sinha Ashoka Innovators for the Public, India

Policy issues: As civil society organisations are more connected to communities than policymakers are, they can help design policies that are appropriate for the societal and cultural context. For instance, while conducting a baseline study in Karnataka we found that govt. programmes to distribute free iron tablets to pregnant women are often ineffective. This is because the women are taken by surprise when the side effects such as stomach irritation kick in and so they either stop taking the tablets or reduce their frequency of intake. They also have other beliefs about these tablets that stop them from taking them. Policies need to account for this, such as by procuring tablets that minimise side effects or educating women about the tablets. CSOs can help understand the why's behind the problem and this can help design better policies.

Programme issues: It's important that monitoring was mentioned here, because it's crucial in creating success stories. Without measuring outcomes, we don't know what we are doing wrong (or right). At Ashoka, we use an Android survey app that enables rural women to collect data. There are other such initiatives such as the University of Washington's Open Data Kit as well. In India, the latest national nutrition data is 7 years old. The govt. can work with civil society to create a real time data flow on nutrition.