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Letter on targeting food aid, by Jean Gladwin

Dear Field Exchange,

I thought I would respond to your special focus editorial in Field Exchange Issue 8, regarding targeting.

I thought the article very interesting, and it was particularly the last paragraph where you speak of the need to investigate the feasibility and means of targeting food aid, and the implications for the design and methodology of food security assessments, that I am reacting to.

For a long time I have felt that food and nutrition information was being collected in many situations without regard for the organisational context in which the data were collected, which meant it was of limited use in informing decisions. In fact, other articles in the same edition appear to mention this.

Having just completed my PhD on the introduction of new health information management strategies in low-income countries I have found this lack of organisational consideration was also a problem in my case studies. I utilised a theoretical framework which is useful in understanding the processes which take place when new information management strategies are introduced. The idea is that various forces within an organisation (Technology, Structure, Management Tools and Processes, Business Strategies and Polices, Individuals and Roles) exist in dynamic equilibrium, and that if one changes the others must change to re-establish that equilibrium.

In practice this framework can be used to guide the introduction of new ways of collecting and processing data and using information, and I believe it is of relevance to the design of food security assessments, nutritional surveillance and other food and nutrition information systems. This way the data collected could better inform operational, planning or policy decisions.

Of course, the introduction of organisational change is very complex and I am not suggesting the above formula alone is sufficient but that it may have an important role in enhancing the role of information systems in food security analysis and response.

Dr Jean Gladwin,
PGCE, MSc, RPHNutr, PhD Centre for Health Information Management Research Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield Sheffield S10 2TN United Kingdom

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Letter on targeting food aid, by Jean Gladwin. Field Exchange 9, March 2000. p10. www.ennonline.net/fex/9/lettersjean

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