People live in Indian remote and rural areas are vulnerable for Iodine deficit. According to Indian Journal of Medical Research, the entire Indian subcontinent known to have iodine-deficient soil making Indians highly susceptible to IDD (or Iodine deficiency disorders) the single largest cause of preventable brain damage across the globe. The harm this micronutrient causes can be permanent, but it is also easily preventable with a daily dosage of 150–200 micrograms of iodine intake through iodized salt. While studies reveal that iodized salt reaches about 91 percent of Indian households, only 71 percent consume it at the recommended level, leaving an estimated 350 million people throughout the country at risk of IDD. Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet easily preventable, cause of brain damage. Today we are on the verge of eliminating it – an achievement that will be hailed as a major public health triumph that ranks with getting rid of smallpox and poliomyelitis.
The lack of consumption of iodized salt has created many problems in tribal people of India. A patch of iodine designed like a bindi, is expected to save the lives of one lakh tribal women in north-west Maharashtra, who are battling iodine deficiency.
To rescue women from IDD a Singapore based firm namely Grey group has developed a novel idea. To address the problem of iodine deficiency in India’s rural areas they are using Bindi or the red dot that Indian women use for religious purposes. The firm has come up with iodine-coated Bindis that could act as a daily supplement if worn for at least four hours.
In collaboration with Indian NGO Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Center, the group launched a trial campaign in Delhi and rural Maharashtra in March to distribute individual packets of 30 coated bindis to more than 30,000 women.
Each Bindi is coated with about 150–200 micrograms of iodine that is absorbed through the skin. The effectiveness varies among individuals and depends on factors such as skin thickness and perspiration level. On average, users absorb about 12 percent of their daily requirement from the bindi, according to Prachi Pawar, president of the Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Center and an ophthalmologist, who adds that there are no side effects. Dr Prachi Pawar, president of the Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Centre that collaborated with Grey to distribute the bindis in Nashik, explains that the stickers, which are coated with 150-200 micrograms of iodine, are supposed to work like a nicotine patch. “The absorption [of iodine] is sub-dermal through the skin,” says Pawar who is an ophthalmologist. “What is required in a day is only 150-200 micrograms. When there is a deficiency, only then the absorption takes place”.
While IDD affects men as well, women are most affected and particularly during childbearing ages. Iodine Bindi helps women to combat IDD. “Women are the cornerstone of every household, so once they are convinced of something, they can influence the entire family,” Pawar says. “Another important factor is that during pregnancy, women need almost a double dose of iodine, so if they are covered, a lot of newborns could be saved from health damage.” “The body will take up only what it requires but it has to go internally first,” said Dr Chandrakant Pandav, professor and head of the Centre for Community Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. “If I have 500 micrograms and my body needs only 150 micrograms, the rest will be excreted in urine.” Pandav said applying iodine to the skin might work, provided that it is in a high concentration. There are instances in historical records of people applying Lugol’s solution, a concentrated iodine solution, to the neck area where the thyroid gland is located. But Pandav questions the use of the iodine bindi when it has been well established that ingesting iodine orally with salt or bread or even toffees is effective.
The second phase of the “Life Saving Dot” campaign was aimed targeting all women, which will make the coated bindis available to even more women. Grey for Good confirms that the project will target other parts of rural India, in collaboration with a number of Indian NGOs that have contacted it about partnerships in the past months. Women in rural areas of Maharashtra, according to Pawar now understand that it is easy to take care of at least one aspect of their health while wearing their every day Bindi.
Women in India known to wear the Bindi on their forehead. Now a day’s not wearing Bindi is becoming common. May be the fact that putting “life saving red dot” can reduce the risk of Iodine deficit may bring back the disappearing tradition or “old fashion” in our country.
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