A photo from the Airbel Impact Lab archive
A photo from the Airbel Impact Lab archive
Multiple countries

Low-Literacy Malnutrition Tools

Empowering community health workers to treat severe acute malnutrition in children under five

In hard-to-reach areas local community health workers are key to treating malnourished children. Commonly used tools for diagnosing and treating malnutrition have been adapted to meet the needs of workers who might have limited ability to read, write, and count.

In isolated last-mile communities, such as those stricken by conflict, it can be difficult or impossible for people to access health facilities. Malnutrition of young children is often high in these circumstances. Local community health workers can provide critical care, but the tools used to diagnose and treat malnutrition are complex, and not all community health workers can read or count.

To address this challenge, the Airbel Center redesigned a number of critical tools for to make them more user-friendly, helping community health workers more effectively deliver treatment to children suffering from or at risk of malnutrition. One key tool is the longitudinal middle upper arm circumference (MUAC) tape, which identifies a child’s nutrition status. When weekly readings are taken, workers can identify whether a child’s health is stationary, improving, or deteriorating. In the new version, numbers were removed, and colors were highlighted, making the tape easier to read and reducing chances of error.

A treatment register was also created containing a unique identifier for each child, making it easier for community health workers to record their findings, matching patient cards and register pages. Finally, a numberless dosage scale helps both community health workers and caretakers identify the right amount of food to feed to children.

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