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 or barangay nutrition scholars (BNS). Presidential Decree No. 1569 mandated the deployment of one BNS in every barangay in the country to monitor the nutritional status of children and/or link communities with nutrition and 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 community worker who links the community with service providers, with the following qualifications:
- bonafide resident of the barangay for at least four years and can speak the local language well;
- 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.
1. caring for the malnourished . . . The BNS locates and identifies malnourished children through a community survey. This survey involves weighing all preschoolers and interviewing mothers to determine how the child is cared for, and the resources available in the family for their participation in nutrition and related interventions.
Based on the results of the annual weighing of all preschoolers in the barangay called Operation Timbang (OPT), the BNS weighs every month all underweight preschoolers, with weights below normal, very low (BNVL). The BNS also weighs every month all 0-24 month-old children to monitor their growth which is most critical at this stage. The BNS also does a quarterly follow-up weighing of children, 25-71 months old, to the extent possible. The regular weighing provides the basis for corrective actions which may include referral to the appropriate service or implementation of nutrition projects, together with the community.
2. mobilizing the community . . . The BNS also moves the community to organize into networks of 20-25 households, or into community-based organizations working for the improvement of their nutrition situation.
3. linkage-building . . . In the presence of other barangay-based development workers, the BNS may not necessarily deliver direct nutrition services to the community but serve as linkage-builder, to ensure that members of the community, especially those with underweight children, avail of nutrition and related services. The BNS must be aware of the services available and of those who need these services, and establish a system through which those needing certain services are referred to the appropriate service provider.
4. other forms of assistance . . . The BNS assists in delivering nutrition and related services which include:
- Organizing mothers’ class or community nutrition education
- 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;
- 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 and other health activities but always together with the local midwife, agriculture officer, social welfare officer, and other workers.
5. keeping records . . . To help other barangay workers and the local officials, the BNS keeps a record of the results of the regular weighing as well as records on the nutrition and health profile of families in the barangay. The BNS also formulates a BNS Action Plan as guide in managing the different tasks assigned to him/her. The BNS also prepares a record of monthly accomplishments to monitor his or her performance in relation to the action plan. The record helps identify adjustments in the plan of action to meet targets set. The BNS also keeps track of his or her daily activities through a diary. The diary should list not only the BNS’s activities but also observations and insights as may be appropriate.
The BNS undergoes a ten-day didactic training. 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 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 action plan.
In some instances, and due to resource constraints, the 30-day training is reduced to 3-4 days and the practicum phase becomes part of the BNS’s service period.
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 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 things correctly.
The best reward of the BNS is the knowledge that they have served their community by helping prevent unnecessary child death. In addition, the BNS receives some incentives too. After completing two consecutive years of satisfactory service, the BNS can avail of a second grade Civil Service Commission (CSC) eligibility by filing the proper application with the CSC regional office. 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.
A BNS receives a modest monthly traveling allowance from the NNC in Manila, the provincial, city, municipal or barangay governments. The amount of the allowance varies depending on the financial capability of the LGUs. In addition, BNSs from LGUs that submit a request to the NNC Manila are covered by a GSIS accident insurance.
Newly trained BNSs also receive (from NNC Manila) 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 a national outstanding BNS.
To date, a total of 19,527 BNSs are deployed in 593 municipalities covering a total of 16,177 barangays nationwide. These BNSs are under the supervision of 259 District/City Nutrition Program Coordinators (D/CNPCs)