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NNC in partnership with UNICEF Philippines with support from Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and technical experts from the Institute of Human Nutrition and Food of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (IHNF-UPLB) through the UPLB Foundation Inc. will be developing a data quality audit protocol and update the implementing guidelines of the Operation Timbang (OPT) Plus. The project aims to improve the data quality, data collection process, and data utilization of the OPT Plus.

NNC has partnered with UNICEF for strategic and technical support provided to the agency for its 2019-2022 work and financial plan for the implementation of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022. The partnership aims to scale up both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions with the overall goal of reducing stunting and all forms of malnutrition. Technical assistance in the development of the data quality review tool and protocol of the OPT Plus and updating its implementing guidelines was one of the outputs of the 2019 End of Year Workplan Review and was included in the 2020 UNICEF workplan. However, due to the pandemic, the project was deferred to 2021.

The quality of the data collected from the OPT and OPT Plus has been an issue in the past, at present, and poses a potential problem in the future. A systematic analysis of the implementation of the OPT has been documented three decades ago with the study of Bondad and Ramos in 1990. In March 2019, NNC funded a study that documented the awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) on the OPT Plus IG in a selected study site. The results of the study showed that the majority of the BNS in the study sites were not aware of the implementing guidelines but were knowledgeable and showed a positive attitude towards OPT Plus. However, most of the BNS have poor practices in the conduct of the activity (Salunga, 2019). The study also recommended the development of a data quality review tool which is also consistent with the findings from the World Bank study on stunting and UNDP-NEDA formative evaluation of PPAN 2017-2022 which recommended resolving the quality issues of the OPT Plus data.

The inception report of the project was presented by the team of IHNF-UPLB on 17 May 2021 during the 7th Nutrition Surveillance – Technical Working Group meeting which was held via Zoom teleconference. The target areas for the pre-testing, pilot testing, and initial roll-out of the project activities and capacity building will focus on the regions of Eastern Visayas and the Zamboanga Peninsula.

This data quality initiative was also identified as one of the enabling activities under the component of data management on quality and timeliness during the Strategic Planning Workshop for the Philippine Nutrition Surveillance System held on 26-27 February 2019. This initiative is also part of the PPAN Research Agenda research priorities on nutrition program, policy, and governance.

The NNC will continue its call on any department, bureau, office, agency, non-government organizations and other partners and instrumentalities for assistance in the form of personnel, facilities, and resources to better the implementation of the PPAN.

Daniel G. Salunga