Senior Technical Advisor USAID Advancing Nutrition Arlington, Virginia
Lack of national/sub-national dietary intake data is a barrier when designing programs to fill population-level nutrient gaps. This study explored the use of household consumption and expenditure survey (HCES) data, which includes reported household food consumption collected every 3-5 years, to obtain information to guide program design.
Secondary analysis of HCES data in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua was carried out several years ago by researchers at INCAP in Central America. Estimated apparent consumption of micronutrients (nutrient density/1000 kilocalories) for different members of the family was calculated by poverty level. Nutrient adequacy was determined by comparing the estimated average requirement (EAR)/1000 kilocalories for each group. Estimation of the percent contribution of micronutrients by food group to identify main food sources was also done, and potential fortification vehicles were identified.
For the three studied Central American countries, high risk of inadequate iron, zinc and calcium intake across all socio-economic groups was found. Among the extreme poor, a high risk of inadequate vitamin B12, riboflavin, folate, and vitamin C intakes was also predicted. Key food sources for micronutrients among the poor varied by country, as did potential fortification vehicles.
The findings suggest that the use of HCES data has a high potential to easily and quickly predict micronutrients for which populations may be at risk, to identify main nutrient sources, and to explore potential fortification vehicles and the need for other strategies to fill nutrient gaps. Further work should validate findings in various settings and target groups.