Testing the Effect of Self-Help Groups to Improve Mother-Child Development

April 18, 2017

Maternal and child undernutrition is a major challenge in much of the developing world.  In countries such as India, with existing policy frameworks and funded programs for nutrition, the challenge of undernutrition is affected significantly by operational challenges of programs, including poor service delivery. This evaluation will whether nutrition can be improved through these programs by increasing knowledge about health and nutrition and by making the programs work more efficiently. The results will not only inform India’s own approaches to improving nutrition for especially women and young children, but those by other countries facing similar problems.

Research area: Early Childhood Nutrition, Development, and Health

Country: India

Evaluation Sample: 3000 households

Timeline: 2014 - 2016

Intervention: self-help groups, information

Researchers: Neha Kumar, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Purnima Menon, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Rasmi Avula, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Avinash Kishore, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); Tom Newton-Lewis, Oxford Policy Management; Ruhi Saith, Oxford Policy Management


India already has several programs that aim to either tackle nutrition directly, such as the Integrated Child Development Scheme, or address other problems that relate to nutrition, such as the National Rural Health Mission, the Total Sanitation Campaign and the Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for empowerment of adolescent girls. However, these programs are not always well implemented nor well utilized. At the same time, it has been difficult to link programs in such a way as to jointly address the issues that can lead to and exacerbate nutrition in women and children.

The Government and other development actors are increasingly looking at different, out-of-the-box approaches to improve convergence and service delivery.  The use of self-help group based models are being assessed as a potential solution, but little evidence, other than small studies and monitoring data from a model in Andhra Pradesh, exist on the potential for self-help group-based models to improve service delivery, convergence and demand for nutrition services. 

The Jeevika program is being rolled out across the state of Bihar by the government with World Bank support. If the model’s effectiveness is established and desirable movement along the impact pathways is observed, this will then allow for scale up of the Multisectoral nutrition convergence model along with the Jeevika program. Moreover, self help groups of a similar structure are being set up across the country under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission and this provides an opportunity for scale up in other states as well.


Randomized control trial. The treatment group will receive the interventions included in the multisectoral nutrition convergence model layered on the Jeevika program platform; a comparison group will provide the counterfactual which includes only the Jeevika platform. Both groups will, therefore, have the same structure of community based women’s self-help groups and their federation of village organisations -- each village organization has 10 to 15 self-help groups. Treatment will be at the village organization level. Treatment and comparison village organizations will be randomly selected from all the village organizations in Saur Bazar block of Saharsa district.