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Nutrition assessment tools

Up-to-date and precise information on food intakes, dietary patterns and nutritional status of people are required by countries and global partners for the formulation of effective nutrition policies and implementation of intervention programmes. FAO supports member countries to formulate policies and create action plans to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by using evidence-based, timely, high quality and comprehensive information. Such high quality food security and nutrition information collected in the country is useful for target setting, surveillance, monitoring and impact evaluation, as well as advocacy.

The Nutrition and Food Systems Division of FAO advocates the use of validated simple food-based assessment tools in countries with limited capacity and resources in order to collect food-based information for supporting decision making on better nutrition.

Dietary Diversity Indicators

Quantitative surveys for dietary intake in individuals can be expensive and time consuming to conduct. Dietary diversity tools have been developed and validated as simple proxies for dietary intake. At household level, the proxy “Household Dietary Diversity Score” (HDDS), developed in 2010  is a measure of access to food. At individual level, the “Minimum Dietary diversity-Women (MDD-W)", developed in 2014  has been validated by secondary analysis as a proxy for assessing diet quality and the adequacy of micronutrient intakes in women of reproductive age.

Information generated from the dietary diversity tools is particularly useful to develop effective food security and nutrition policies and programmes to supply more nutritious foods and to promote healthy diets. Furthermore, the tools are quick and simple to use and can be integrated easily into most impact evaluation protocols and large-scale surveys.