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Features Friday, June 05, 2015 - 05:30

  Can you imagine an idea by a Singapore-based advertising agency and the research and development by an NGO in India to make a bindi coated with iodine that claims to be able to save countless Indian lives? Though it has received a lot of publicity, doubts have been raised about the authenticity of the "Life Saving Dot" to try and solve the iodine deficiency problems among women in parts of rural India. Grey Group and Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Centre teamed up in March and handed out packets of "Jeevan Bindi" to women in districts including Kopergaon, Niphad and Peth areas in Maharashtra and Badli around New Delhi. Speaking to The News Minute, Dr. Prachi Pawar, President of the Neelvasant Medical foundation and Research Centre explained that the bindis are coated with 150- 200 micrograms of iodine, a micronutrient that would be absorbed by the skin. “The bindi dispenses the iodine in 4-5 hours but the women prefer to wear it throughout the day as there are no side effects,” she claims. She also said that the second phase of the project would include targeting the Indian masses. Grey Group claims that the project is a success and is gearing up for the next step.“Due to the success of the initial pilot project we are getting the final logistics with regard to distribution and NGOs that will participate in this initiative. We’re also trying to get corporates to contribute to this cause and expect this to be rolled out in a couple of months,” says Huma Qureshi, director of communications for Grey Group. Where is the research to back the claim? Though there hasn’t been any official follow up on this initiative yet, Pawar claims that the results have been overwhelming. As part of the research, the bindis were distributed to women in the specific regions for a period of time. "Even after the research got over, the women were very enthusiastic about the initiative and demanded more bindis," she says. When we asked the NGO to disclose the results, they said that they weren’t ready to share it. Dr. Chandrakant Pandav, professor and head of the Centre for Community Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, is sceptical about this project and says that there is no evidence of the iodised bindi being effective. He explains that randomised control trials, where one woman would get an iodised bindi and another would get a non-iodised bindi, need to be conducted for a follow up. “The women are probably demanding more of the product for decorative purposes. Many countries have tried to introduce different ways to supply iodine as add ons like iodised bread in New Zealand, iodised toffee in Mexico and iodised fish sauce in East Asian countries. But, the most effective way of giving iodine to the body is through iodised salt or iodine oil capsules that can last for two years and iodine injections that remain effective for five years,” he says. Pandav also raises the question as to why should there be a need for investing resources on iodising a bindi when there is already a solution in the form of iodised salt present. India is the third largest producer of salt and one of the first countries to start a public health programme to address iodine deficiency through salt iodisation. Yet, only 71% of Indian households consume iodised salt, according to UNICEF. The ill effects of iodine deficiency include hypothyroid, goitre and can even lead to children being born with mental retardation if the mother is deficient. All images source: Life Saving Dot/Facebook Also read: The UP officer who brought Nestle down to its knees

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