500 million women live in India and the overwhelming majority of them suffer from life-threatening diseases. Approximately 70 million Indians suffer from disorders related to iodine deficiency. Iodine is vital to proper functioning of the thyroid. Impairment of the thyroid leads to a number of health issues including cognitive impairment, weight loss or gain, depression, and skin and hair problems. For pregnant women, iodine is necessary to ensure healthy development of the fetus.
How to reverse this problem of iodine deficiency? There are supplements, but they are expensive and even when given for free, women tend to forget them. Along comes a novel way, making use of tradition to save lives.
Jeevan Bindi is the brainchild of staff at Grey for Good, the philanthropic division of the international advertising, public relations and marketing firm The Grey Group. The staff at Grey for Good were looking for a solution to the problem of iodine deficiency among India’s female population. When they learned that it can be addressed by wearing a skin patch, they began to think of a way to deliver a patch that the women would actually use. This is how they arrived at the bindi. Millions of women are already wearing the bindi, so its transformation into an iodine patch would require no change in lifestyle or behavior. Each bindi/iodine patch delivers 100-150 micrograms of iodine, the daily dose required for optimal health. The iodine is absorbed through the skin and spreads throughout the body. It must be worn for eight hours and is safe for pregnant women.
Grey for Good partnered with Neelvasant Medical Center and Research Foundation. Neelvasant is an NGO serving the rural and tribal populations of India. Neelvasant identified the communities most in need and the distribution began there. According to a National Public Radio report, so far, more than 30,000 women residing in roughly 100 villages have received the Jeevan Bindi. While specialists do not know if the iodine will remain on the patch for the sufficient amount of time, they feel that just bringing increased attention to the problem of iodine deficiency may result in lifestyle changes among the population.
Simplicity at its best.