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Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent cause of brain damage, along with a host of other health complications. In India, the problem is particularly acute because of low levels of iodine in the soil. Iodine-fortified salt mitigates the risk, yet the cost means an estimated 350 million Indians do not consume it.
Life Saving Dot, the brainchild of advertising company Grey Group, aims to provide women in rural India with the daily dose required by impregnating self-adhesive bindis with an iodine solution. For millennia, the bindi – the Hindu symbol of the chakra – has been used across India. The treated bindis act as transdermal patches, providing women with the 150 to 220 micrograms of iodine they require daily.
The beauty of the idea is that it fits into an established cultural tradition, says Ali Shabaz, chief creative officer of Grey Group Singapore. “It’s hard to get [rural women] to make massive behavioural changes”, he says. But here “all they have to do is wear the same bindi that they wear every day”.
Grey Group is working with Talwar Bindi, one of India’s largest bindi producers, to distribute the product for free in a small number of pilot areas. Grey Group, which developed the idea through its philanthropic arm, is in discussion with a number of Indian companies interested in funding wider distribution as part of their mandatory CSR investment requirements. Shabaz’s hope is that the solution will be rolled out nationwide as part of a publicly-funded health programme.