The Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University has announced a $4 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in support of efforts to reduce high rates of iron deficiency and anemia in India.
Severe anemia is especially dangerous for pregnant women and their developing babies, but more than half of all women of childbearing age in India are anemic, largely as a result of iron deficiency. The grant will fund a three-year project to develop a social norms-based strategy for addressing iron deficiency and anemia in the Indian state of Odisha, where rates are particularly high, with the hope that the model can be used in other parts of India and the world.
Led by Rajiv Rimal, professor and chair of the Department of Prevention and Community Health at the Milken Institute SPH, researchers will work to identify barriers that prevent women in Odisha from taking iron supplements, design a study to determine whether changes in social norms and behavior are feasible, and then develop, test, and refine a small-scale intervention. The team will partner with IPE Global, a group already working to address iron deficiency anemia in Odisha.
According to the World Health Organization, two billion people, or more than 30 percent of the global population, are anemic. If left unchecked, iron-deficiency anemia can lower the work capacity of individuals and entire populations — leading to serious economic and health consequences.
"Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to a cycle of poor health, one that can affect women, their children, and entire communities," said Rimal. "Our study aims to find an innovative solution for this important public health problem."
(Photo credit: George Washington University)