Improving health outcomes by addressing nutritional issues among pregnant and lactating women
GMR Varalakshmi Foundation (GMRVF), the CSR arm of the GMR Group, is a not-for-profit organization registered under Section-8 of the Companies Act. The foundation implements all CSR activities of the GMR group around its business units across 15 locations in India. The foundation works with a vision to make a sustainable impact on the human development of under-served communities through initiatives in Education, Health and Livelihoods.
Health is a significant thrust area of GMRVF’s work, with a keen focus on maternal nutrition. In the rural communities of India, child mortality and congenital deficiencies related to poor maternal health are a few of the top challenges faced today. Malnutrition is a major cause of death among children below five years of age, with the reasons being – poor nutrition in pregnancy and lactation phases, certain unhealthy behaviours and practices, and lack of awareness on the supplementary diet. The mother must enjoy good health during pregnancy as well as the lactation period which would result in healthy foetal development, delivery as well as a well-nourished baby.
To fulfil the needs in its communities, GMRVF initiated ‘Supplementary Nutrition Centre for Pregnant and Lactating Women’ at different locations in India. The nutrition centre is a holistic care centre for pregnant and lactating mothers (institution-based service delivery). The program was launched as a pilot initiative at Airport Rehabilitation Colony in 2007 and Rangnayakula Thanda village in 2008 near GMR Hyderabad International Airport Ltd. in Telangana. Currently, the foundation covers 15 villages in 4 states and has reached out to more than 4000 women since the inception of the program. The centre is used as a platform to provide supplementary nutrition daily and improve overall awareness of health and nutrition aspects.
The program targets pregnant and lactating women who do not have more than 2 children (from 3 months pregnancy to 6 months lactation period) and aims
The intervention follows the ‘Theory of Change’ model wherein it focuses on ‘mapping out’ or ‘filling in’ what has been described as the ‘missing middle’ between what a program or change initiative does (its activities or interventions) and how these lead to desired goals being achieved. The long-term goal of the Nutrition Centre initiative is to reduce maternal and child mortality rates and improve maternal and child health. Maternal deaths are preventable when women have access to proper care during pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth and support in the weeks after childbirth. Nutrition Centres offer exactly these supports in a centre-based approach, which has been successful by following:
The special feature of this initiative is the provision of supplementary nutrition being provided at the centre every day and training beneficiaries on the ‘Gudiya Model-A Self-Monitoring Tool’.
What makes the Nutrition Centres unique and effective is that the women consume their daily intake of nutrition at the Centre itself in a joyful environment with their peers. Trained volunteers also conduct formal and informal sessions on various precautions to be taken, and in case of any problem faced by the beneficiaries, they guide, monitor, and provide credible and easy-to-understand resources to read at the time of visit to the Centre. Nutrition Centres provide diverse nutritious foods in different combinations 6 days a week such as boiled eggs, seasonal fruits, peanut chikki, dates, and coconut.
The Gudiya Model provides information on all essential health practices during pregnancy. The tool was introduced by UNICEF in the Chandrapur district in 2010 and brought about a silent revolution in the way communities access health services. The ‘Gudiya’ model is user friendly and tracks families progress on 13 critical health and nutrition indicators.
Owing to the effectiveness of the program it saw several encouraging outputs:
The inputs have resulted in tremendous positive outcomes as highlighted below:
The set of activities adopted in the Nutrition centre is unique and effective in improving the health status of pregnant and lactating women. All beneficiaries have shown satisfaction mainly because of the quality of food support, services and constant health check-ups. The foundation played a major role in bringing behavioural change in pregnant and lactating mothers through the Nutrition Centres. The constant awareness drives and supplementary nutrition in the centres, creating a healthy environment and providing space for mental relaxation helped to improve the health and nutrition status of women in project villages. Efforts are continuing in the nutrition centre to make it sustainable by adopting Positive Deviance Hearth approaches and involving all stakeholders with the sole objective of improving the health status of women and reducing infant and maternal mortality rates.
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