Last month the Micronutrient Forum (MNF) released a Micronutrient Data Generation Initiative Strategic Plan—a comprehensive strategy for how to fill long-standing gaps in data on the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies across low- and middle-income countries.
The strategy is noteworthy on multiple levels, but in particular for its theory of change which describes the steps and enabling factors required to achieve the goal of more high-quality data on micronutrient status. While not explicitly framed using the Data Value Chain (DVC) framework, the steps in the theory of change map nicely to DVC components (Figure 1).
The MNF document provides a helpful blueprint for global and country-level strategic planning to support collection of micronutrient status data. However, many of the key points and recommendations are applicable to filling other nutrition data gaps, including data on nutrition intervention coverage, dietary intake, food security and resource tracking. One decision the MNF strategy highlights is whether to conduct a standalone micronutrient survey or to incorporate a micronutrient component into an existing survey platform, such as a Demographic and Health Survey. This consideration reflects a broader need to integrate nutrition data collection into established data collection channels.
The multi-sectoral nature of nutrition requires nutrition-related data to come from a range of data sources that are under the oversight of diverse actors at national, subnational, and global levels. The cycle for planning, implementation, and revision of these data collection channels can vary widely—as can the stakeholders who are invited to contribute to their planning. For example, in some contexts the paper registers used to capture data about service delivery in health centers are updated about every five years, with more time required for roll out. In contrast, in countries implementing more frequent national nutrition surveys, there may be an annual opportunity to revise the survey content.
If national nutrition stakeholders develop a unified 5- to 10-year strategic plan for nutrition-related data collection, then indicators can be added to or revised in specific data channels as the opportunity arises—but still contribute to a cohesive whole. The plan should be harmonized with national nutrition priorities and ideally reflect the cost of data collection, which can be used to advocate for any required funding.
How is DataDENT advancing strategic planning for nutrition data needs?
DataDENT coordinated efforts in 2018-2019 to advocate for new indicators in DHS core questionnaire which including a stakeholder convening about global data gaps and an online survey of nutrition data stakeholders. We have also been involved in ongoing efforts by The DHS Program and USAID to revise the core Service Provision Assessment questionnaire. DataDENT is currently working with stakeholders in Nigeria to develop a costed 10-year strategic plan for nutrition data in the health sector. DataDENT is also contributing content about strategic planning for nutrition data to the forthcoming WHO-UNICEF guidance on National Nutrition Information Systems. Watch for outputs related to these efforts towards the end of 2021!
 Brown KH, Moore SE, Hess SY, et al. Increasing the availability and utilization of reliable data on population micronutrient (MN) status globally: the MN Data Generation Initiative. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 May 24;nqab173. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab173.