The Barangay Nutrition Scholar (BNS) Program is a human resource development strategy of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition, which involves the recruitment, training, deployment and supervision of volunteer workers called the Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS).
Presidential Decree No. 1569 (1979) mandated the deployment of at least one (1) BNS in every barangay in the country to monitor the nutritional status of children and other nutritionally at-risk groups and link them with nutrition and nutrition-related service providers. PD 1569 also mandated the NNC to administer the program in cooperation with local government units.
Qualifications of a Barangay Nutrition Scholar
A BNS is a trained volunteer community worker with the following qualifications:
- Bonafide resident of the barangay for at least four years and can speak the local language;
- Possess leadership potentials as evidenced by membership and leadership in community organizations;
- Willing to serve the barangay, part-time or full-time for at least one year;
- At least elementary graduate but preferably has reached high school level;
- Physically and mentally fit;
- More than 18 years old, but younger than 60 years old.
To prepare a potential BNS for deployment in his/her barangay, a BNS should undergo a training under the supervision of the District/City Nutrition Program Coordinator or the designated BNS trainer-supervisor. The training combines didactic training and twenty (20) days practicum.
The training facilitates the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed for effective performance of the tasks of identifying the malnourished, monitoring the malnourished, and referring them to appropriate service providers.
After the didactic phase, the BNS undergoes a twenty-day practicum to learn how to weigh and measure the height or length of preschoolers properly and interview mothers on matters which may relate to their child-rearing practices. During this phase, the BNS collects and analyzes data on the barangay nutrition situation using the family and barangay profile forms. He or she also formulates his or her BNS action plan.
The BNS trainer-supervisor or the district/city nutrition program coordinator (D/CNPC) organizes, conducts, and supervises the training. In the absence of the D/CNPC, the nutrition action officer (NAO) assumes these responsibilities. To reinforce skills during the formal training, BNSs also attend monthly meetings.
During these meetings, the D/CNPC or NAO provides more information on proper weighing and height/length-taking and record keeping, good nutrition, breastfeeding or other information to update their knowledge and skills. The D/CNPC or NAO visits the BNS regularly observing and encouraging the BNS to do his/her tasks correctly.
The Basic Tasks of the BNS
- Caring for the malnourished
The BNS locates and identifies malnourished children through a community survey referred to as the Operation Timbang Plus. This survey involves weighing and measuring the length or height of all preschoolers and interviewing mothers to determine how the child is cared for, and the resources available in the family and their participation in nutrition and related interventions.
Based on the results of the annual OPT Plus activity, the BNS also weighs monthly all undernourished preschoolers. The BNS also monitors the growth of all 0-23 month-old children to monitor if the children are reaching their growth targets according to the accepted child growth standard. The BNS also does a quarterly follow-up weighing of children, 24-59 months old, to monitor any growth faltering and determine any need for counselling of parents and/or care givers or referral to appropriate service providers.
- Mobilizing the community
The BNS also engages the community to action by organizing families into clusters of 20-25 households, or into community-based organizations working and helping the barangay to improve the nutrition situation among the vulnerable.
With the barangay masterlist of wasted, stunted, under- and overweight children, pregnant and lactating mothers, the BNS links the people needing nutrition intervention and the barangay service providers. Thus, part of the BNS training is to learn the various nutrition interventions and the various workers in the barangay. In addition, the BNS performs other specific tasks, including organizing community nutrition activities and sharing nutrition information in the community.
- Other forms of BNS assistance
The BNS assists in delivering nutrition and related services which include:
- Organizing mothers’ class or community nutrition education classes;
- Providing nutrition counseling services, especially on exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding, through home visits;
- Managing community-based feeding programs under the supervision of a nutritionist-dietitian or a trained personnel;
- Distributing seeds, seedlings, and small animals from the local agriculture office and other government organizations and nongovernment organizations to promote home or community food gardens; and
- Informing the community on scheduled immunization, deworming and other health activities under the instruction of the local midwife, agriculture officer, social welfare officer, and other workers.
- Keeping records
To help other barangay workers and the local officials, the BNS keeps a record of the results of the regular nutritional assessment as well as records on the nutrition and health profile of families in the barangay. The BNS also keeps records of the various nutrition programs and accomplishments of the barangay.
The BNS also formulates a BNS Action Plan as guide in managing her/his different tasks to support implementation of the Barangay Nutrition Action Plan. To document her accomplishments as a BNS, he/she prepares a record of monthly accomplishments in relation the targets in the BNS action plan. The BNS also keeps track of his or her daily activities through a diary. The diary lists the BNS’ activities for the day, observations and insights as part of her/his on-the-job training and continuing education as a BNS.
The best reward of the BNS is the fulfillment of knowing that through his/her service and that of the other volunteer workers in the community, child illnesses and death due to malnutrition are prevented.. In addition, the BNS receives some incentives too.
After completing two consecutive years of satisfactory service, the BNS can avail of a first level eligibility by filing the proper application with the regional office of the Civil Service Commission (CSC). This gives the BNS a chance to become a full-pledged civil servant should the BNS qualify for a vacant position in the local government. Detailed requirements appear in the Civil Service Commission website.
In addition, a BNS receives a modest monthly traveling allowance from the NNC in Manila, and from provincial, city, municipal or barangay governments. The amount of the allowance varies depending on the financial capability of the LGUs. In addition, the NNC provides survivorship assistance for the families of deceased BNSs, and medical assistance to BNSs who have been confined in a medical facility.
Newly trained BNSs also receive from NNC, a bag, a t-shirt and a set of nutrition information materials to be shared with the other members of the community. BNSs also receive various material incentives like uniform, jacket, etc. from the LGU.
When the BNS does his/her work well, he/she could be chosen as an outstanding BNS in the municipality, city, province or region; and may even be chosen as the National Outstanding BNS. The NOBNS is recognized annually during the National Nutrition Awarding Ceremony.
In addition, BNSs who have rendered at least two years of satisfactory service to his/her barangay may apply for second grade eligibility from the Civil Service Commission. To apply to the CSC for the eligibility, the BNS requests a certification from NNC attesting inclusion of the BNS’ name in the NNC’s database. Requirements for issuance of this authentication include:
- Original endorsement letter from local chief executive
- Original endorsement letter from the NNC regional office
- Photocopy of designation/appointment paper signed by Barangay Captain/Nutrition Action Officer
- Photocopy of BNS master list with name and details of BNS, per year of service from the LGU
- Photocopy of BNS ID card or government issued ID card
- At least one (1) copy of certificate of attendance/participation from any relevant training
Once the authentication from BNS is granted, this is submitted to CSC together with the other eligibility requirements of CSC.
To date, a total of 49,779 BNSs are deployed in 39,942 barangays nationwide. These BNSs are under the supervision of over 400 District/City Nutrition Program Coordinators (D/CNPCs).