Life Saving Dots: How Iodine-Soaked Bindis Are Transforming Rural India

Millions of people across India suffer from an iodine deficiency, which can cause serious and irreversible – and ultimately preventable – health problems. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. So what can be done to reach out to a country with 500 million women? A simple initiative, recently tested in rural India, may offer a solution: the Life Saving Dot.

Author Marisa Pettit, 07.22.15

Millions of people across India suffer from an iodine deficiency, which can cause serious and irreversible – and ultimately preventable – health problems. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. So what can be done to reach out to a country with 500 million women? A simple initiative, recently tested in rural India, may offer a solution: the Life Saving Dot.

Iodine deficiency disorders are the single largest cause of preventable brain damage worldwide, according to the Indian Journal of Medical Research. The simplest way to prevent them is by adding iodized salt to food. But according to the journal’s report, an estimated 350 million people in India still don’t receive an adequate amount. Pregnant women in particular require significant levels of iodine in their diet. According to the WHO, iodine is essential to ensure the healthy development of the brain in the foetus, as well as to avoid complications during pregnancy.

The bindi – whether for cultural, religious or just cosmetic reasons – has been used by women throughout India for thousands of years. Most Indian women wear one every single day. Life Saving Dot, the brainchild of an Indian medical research centre and a Singaporean advertising company, aims to provide women in rural India with their daily dose of iodine by supplying them with bindis impregnated with iodine solution. If worn for at least four hours, the iodine-soaked bindis act like transdermal patches, providing them with the 150 to 220 micrograms of iodine they require each day.

In the world’s poorest countries, poor health is one of the major obstacles to development. Ideas and innovations from foreign governments and companies can help, but if they don’t fit into the day-to-day lives of the intended users, they can end up doing more harm than good. To have a real impact, solutions need to be simple, accessible and culturally appropriate.. Rather than getting the women to make huge changes to the way they live their lives, this product has been adapted to suit them instead – the way they fit perfectly into an already established cultural and religious tradition, that’s the real beauty of these bindis. For more information about the project, check out the short video below.

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