In response to the need to have a holistic information system that can continuously collect, analyse and interpret data related to nutrition, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is supporting the Ministry of Health in Seychelles to develop the country's Nutrition Information System (NIS).
Dr Hana Bekele, Nutrition Advisor from the Regional Office was in the country between 13th to 17th August 2018, on a scoping mission to establish the NIS. With the assistance of Dr. Bekele, a desk review of the strengths and weaknesses of the different nutrition data collection tools and databases currently in existence was conducted. The key findings of the review showed that the country collects extensive data, scattered within different programmes but that there is no common nutrition database that can pull such data together. Whilst electronic systems are available within the Antenatal database, School Health database and Nutrition database, various paper-based collection tools including the Child's Growth card, Patient's card and Child's Milestones are also in use and not effectively analysed.
The desk review highlighted some key strengths of the current system which makes provision for all children under the age of 2 years to be assessed and their weights monitored and plotted on their growth charts. The weaknesses however indicates that the charts currently in use are not standardized and not in line with WHO Growth chart and that there is a lack of standardized anthropometric equipment which generally affects quality of data collected. The country's focus is also more on overweight and obesity whilst limited data are collected to assess prevalence of any underweight, stunting or wasting.
A meeting was held on Thursday 16th August 2018 to present the findings of the desk review to stakeholders, to decide on the proposed indicators to include in the NIS and agree on the recommended actions and timeframe going forward. Speaking to those present at the meeting Dr Bekele congratulated the country for the amount of data being collected. Going forward, she suggested that the country develops the capacity to analyse data available and ensure that such disaggregated quality data is being reported into global health observatories and made available to the world. She reiterated WHO's technical support to strengthening the country's nutrition surveillance systems, a commitment made by the Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti during the 6th Meeting of Ministers of Health of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) held in Seychelles last year.
Once launched, the Seychelles' NIS is expected to have key indicators so that the country can better monitor its progress towards the Global Nutrition targets of (1) 40% reduction in the number of children under 5 who are stunted, (2) 30% reduction in low-birth weight infants, (3) an increase in the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months to at least 50%, (4) 50% reduction of anemia in women of reproductive age, (5) no increase in childhood overweight and (6) reduced and maintained child wasting to less than 5% by the year 2025. Same will provide evidence so that the country can be able to identify priority areas for action over the next 7 years and beyond. To support the successful establishment of the database, the government has also re-committed support to procure anthropometric equipment that meet WHO standards.
It is to be noted that the country is currently in the process of establishing a digital health information system and it is anticipated that when it is fully fledged by end of 2019, the NIS can be integrated into this comprehensive system.