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close this book Community Nutrition Action for Child Survival
close this folder Part II - Planning nutrition action projects
close this folder Unit 2: Finding the causes of malnutrition
View the document Session 1: Conducting a community nutrition mini-survey
View the document Session 2: Analyzing community nutrition information

Session 1: Conducting a community nutrition mini-survey


Trainees collect information from individual households about the nutrition status of children 0-5 years, infant feeding habits, family size and resources and illnesses that might complicate nutrition status.

Time: 1 1/2 hours preparation, 3-4 hours field work


- Handout - "Nutrition Mini-Survey" (one pretested questionnaire for each trainee plus enough so that each survey team has several more than you expect them to fill out.)

- Growth assessment equipment (arm circumference tape)

- Pencils

- Map of the survey area

Preparation :

- Adapt, pretest and produce sufficient copies of the questionnaire.

- Advise and seek consent of local officials for survey work in the community.

- Find out from local health workers and leaders where the community survey teams are likely to find malnourished children.

- Assign teams to different areas of the community or specific households.


1. Briefly review with trainees the most common causes of malnutrition in women and children.

2. Tell trainees that in this session, they will investigate the problem of malnutrition in the community and the causes of malnutrition in individual families by carrying out a community survey.

3. Pass out the community nutrition questionnaire and review each of the questions with the trainees.

4. Divide trainees into pairs (2) for role play exercise below:

Role Play Situation: A mother (trainee #1) is busy working in her home when the field worker (trainee #2) comes to ask her questions about her children. The mother has never met the worker before so she is hesitant to answer her questions. The worker asks each of the questions on the questionnaire. The mother should imagine herself in the position of a real mother. For example, if there are questions she thinks a real woman in the village would not understand, she should pretend not to understand. The worker then has to try to help her understand without answering the question for her. There will also be questions that villagers may not answer truthfully or may not want to answer. After completing the questionnaire, the trainees should switch roles and repeat the role play.

5. Bring all of the trainees back to the large group. Ask them if they had problems with any of the questions or if they anticipate problems. If necessary, make changes in words or the way a question is asked to improve its clarity. Be careful not to change the meaning of the questions.

6. Other activities that will help trainees prepare for the mini-survey:

- Ask trainees to list the steps a team takes when meeting and interviewing a family for the first time.

- Ask several trainees to role play the initial meeting between the mother and the field worker. Focus the group's attention on how the field worker explains the purpose of the interview.

7. Divide the group into survey teams of 3-4 trainees each. Explain their areas assigned, using a map or diagram of the community. Make sure they understand how many families they should interview (7-10), and when you expect them back at the training site. Make sure survey teams know where they can refer families for assistance and health care.

8. During the remainder of this session, the teams work in the community to complete interviews with (7-10) families each. Trainers should accompany survey teams if possible.

Note: In this exercise, it is important for each team to interview at least two or three households that have sick or malnourished children. In areas where few children are malnourished, you may wish to substitute a clinic exercise for the community study. The same questionnaire can be used in either situation.


Questionnaire #

Team #



Sample Household Questionnaire

Complete one questionnaire for each family. (In polygamous situations complete one for each woman and her children under 5 years.)

Name of Mother


Age of Mother


Name of Father


Person Interviewed


Relationship to Mother


CHILD HEALTH: Answer the questions on the next page for each child under 5 years in this family. Enter the information for the youngest child in column 1, the second youngest in column 2, etc.



Child 1

Child 2

Child 3





Nutrition Status (arm circumference, weight for age, etc.)


Illnesses during past 2 weeks? Cause? Treatment?


Feeding Habits: What did the child eat yesterday? Place an X by the foods mentioned.


A. Breast milk


B. Cereals, Grains, Roots


C. Legumes, Meat, Fish, Eggs, Milk


D. Vegetables, Fruit


Immunization: Place an X next to the vaccines that the child has taken






Polio 1














Total # live births = # Living Children + # Dead Children

Give ages and causes of death in children who have died

Is the woman currently pregnant?_____ breastfeeding?_____

Is the woman (or couple) currently using a family planning method?______ If yes, which method?______ If no, is the woman interested in family planning?_____

Does the woman show signs of anemia?____________(pale mouth, lips, conjunctive)


How many people live in this household?_____

What are the sources of income for the household?


What crops were grown last year?


Does the food grown by the family last the entire year? _____If no, which months of the year does the family run short of food?_________

What animals does the family raise to eat or sell?



Does the family have a latrine? _____If yes, is it used?_____

Where does the family get water for drinking? ______(source) How far is the water from the house?_____

Is anyone in the family sick with tuberculosis?_____

QUESTIONS FOR THE FIELDWORKER: Survey teams should answer the following questions for all families with children who are malnourished.

What do you think are the most important causes of malnutrition in this household?


What would you investigate further?


What action did you recommend to this family?