Results of the fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), Phase-I, revealed a mixed landscape for nutrition in India. Some pressing points of stunting and anaemia see an increase in the surveyed states. The results also mark significant progress in the uptake of services. However, it does not lay any focus on the quality of parameters of the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) through which most of the nutrition services operate. With overwhelming political will and commitment at the national and the state level of which POSHAN Mission 2.0 is a piece of remarkable evidence, a major gap continues to exist.
It is time that we focus on the skills and motivation level of the human resource machinery of the ICDS i.e., our Front-Line Workers (FLWs) which sums up to approximately 1.3 million Anganwadi Workers (AWW) across India. These AWWs are a workforce that not only contributes towards the growth of the nation by ensuring timely nutrition services but is also a network that is instrumental in running campaigns and last-mile service delivery in challenging times such as COVID-19. On one hand, digitizing their reporting and capacity building is a welcome step through POSHAN Abhiyaan, additionally, it is imperative to bring in modern methods to mentor the AWW with a focus on enhancing their service delivery skills and developing a problem resolution approach. For this, we need to lay a strong foundation of supportive supervision. In that order, the term ‘supportive supervision’ denotes a process of helping staff in a respectful and non-authoritarian way. It is a process of open, two-way communication and building a problem-solving environment. It focuses on monitoring the performance towards goals, data for decision-making, and proper follow-up and feedback mechanism.
To build the foundation of Supportive supervision, India needs to recognize certain challenges faced by the ICDS. AWWs continue to exist within the ever-changing implementation activities and strategies of ICDS. They face certain common problems of – additional duties like electoral awareness, economic surveys, and extensive reporting which competes with their time to address malnutrition. There is an absence of supportive supervision to share experiences and grievances, where officials and staff at the varying level would identify their problems, question, and discuss possible solutions, potentially on topics outside of ICDS. The process of supportive supervision can ensure quality by creating a conducive environment for all stakeholders involved, especially for the FLWs.