Once the ICDS-Common Application Software -- the world’s largest mobile health platform that was rolled out last year as part of the Poshan Abhiyaan -- covers all Anganwadis in the country via the mobile phone by March next year, it will provide real time information about every child, adolescent girl or mother needing nutritional intervention, leading to a "revolution" in India’s nutrition landscape, says Dr Rajesh Kumar, IAS, former Mission Director, Poshan Abhiyaan.
The ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services)-Common Application Software (CAS), developed by the WCD Ministry in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has already put around three lakh Anganwadi workers online and will cover the whole country by March 20 next year.
“ICDS-CAS is the largest mobile health platform on the planet as on date. It provides for complete household management, generation of status lists - on distribution of Take Home Rations, Immunisations, institutional deliveries, ante natal care, early childhood development, and many more features. We are hopeful it will bring in a revolution because it is not just a monitoring tool, it is a governance and service delivery mechanism of which monitoring and data analysis are by-products,” Dr Kumar told Outlook in an interview.
Dr Kumar, who was behind roll out of the ICDS-CAS software last year, said the device has a “dynamic dashboard”. Its reach begins from the Anganwadi and goes up to the sector level Under Supervisor, Block Level Under Child Development Project Officer (CDPO), and from there to the district, state and national level. “All the data is being analysed, the tools of big data analytics, predictive analysis, are being used to find out what are the key interventions needed, what are the clusters of service deprivation, clusters of problem areas, and how do we take remedial action,” Kumar said.
“A component of Artificial Intelligence will be built in. And once CAS evolves in full form and rolls out, there is no way we will not know which child, or which girl or which mother needs attention. Because it also provides for real-time growth monitoring on monthly basis. And that is where we will identify the problems, find the service gaps and address the problems in the most comprehensive manner and make interventions whenever and wherever needed.”
He termed the ICDS-CAS one of the backbones of the Poshan Abhiyaan, besides Jan Andolan or peoples’ participation, and Behaviour Change Communication. It would be of immense help to Anganwadi workers who “are loaded with 11 registers, and are also required to plot growth charts”.
By 2020, the CAS is expected to be rolled out across 14 lakh Anganwadis and help 10 crore beneficiaries – children, adolescent girls and mothers among others. Whatever data an Anganwadi worker feeds into the CAS based on her interaction with a beneficiary, is synced to a main server. Based on the data, a Supervisor interacts with the Anganwadi worker and then with the beneficiary, and syncs the data to the server. Upon getting the information, the Helpdesk is alerted about any troubleshooting or intervention required.
Elaborating on the work done in one year of Poshan Abhiyaan, which was launched in March 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Dr Kumar said it has resulted in a “major change” in how to comprehensively address the problem of malnutrition, coupled with health interventions, and also helped to dovetail the efforts towards providing proper water supply and sanitation.
“These are the major pillars to ensure proper health and nutrition, which is very important and unless we work on all the three pillars and have a sound foundation, the country cannot get rid of the problem of Undernutrition, Stunting, high prevalence of Anaemia, frequent infections and poor ability of the people to perform physically and mentally,” he said.
The Poshan Abhiyaan – Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition -- was conceived to bring synergy and convergence among different departments and ministries so that the efforts, “right from the Government of India to the state governments, taking the route through the districts and blocks, ultimately reaches the villages and habitations, using the common platform of Anganwadi centres – which are spread over 1.4 million locations”, he said.
Besides the Women and Child Development ministry, the others that are part of Poshan Abhiyaan are the ministries of Health and Family Welfare, Drinking Water and Sanitation, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, AYUSH and many others. The emphasis is towards ensuring service delivery and implementation of different programmes, and also to "ensure that all these ministries and departments work in synergy and their resources and efforts are dovetailed, to be optimally leveraged to bring about a sea change”, he added.
The Poshan Abhiyaan aims to reduce the level of Stunting, Under-nutrition, Anemia and Low Birth Weight in children, and also focus on adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers.