Understanding factors that influence the integration of acute malnutrition interventions into the national health system in Niger

Since 2007 to address a high burden, integration of acute malnutrition has been promoted in Niger. This paper studies factors that influenced the integration process of acute malnutrition into the Niger national health system.

We used qualitative methods of observation, key informant interviews and focus group discussions at national level, two districts and nine communities selected through convenience sampling, as well as document review. A framework approach constructed around the problem, intervention, adoption system, health system characteristics and broad context guided the analysis. Data were recorded on paper, transcribed in a descriptive record, coded by themes deduced by building on the framework and triangulated for comprehensiveness.

Key facilitating factors identified were knowledge and recognition of the problem helped by accurate information; effectiveness of decentralized continuity of care; compatibility with goals, support and involvement of health actors; and leadership for aligning policies and partnerships and mobilizing resources within a favourable political context driven by multisectoral development goals. Key hindering factors identified were not fully understanding severity, causes and consequences of the problem; limited utilization and trust in health interventions; high workload, and health worker turnover and attrition; and high dependence on financial and technical support based on short-term emergency funding within a context of high demographic pressure.

The study uncovered influencing factors of integrating acute malnutrition into the national health system and their complex dynamics and relationships. It elicited the need for goal-oriented strategies and alignment of health actors to achieve sustainability, and systems thinking to understand pathways that foster integration. We recommend that context-specific learning of integrating acute malnutrition may expand to include causal modelling and scenario testing to inform strategy designs. The method may also be applied to monitor progress of integrating nutrition by the multisectoral nutrition plan to guide change.

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