The Jeevan Bindi

A recent item in the ‘Times of India’ newspaper piqued my interest the other day – an exciting new health initiative aimed at tackling iodine deficiency in Indian women. Many countries in the developing world face health-related concerns in burgeoning populations which do not have access to appropriate and timely medical care. Such issues are addressed by a variety of charities and organisations that are set up with the primary objectives of developing innovative and enterpreneurial solutions. One such NGO or Charity, is the Neel Vasant Foundation, based in India. It’s listed aims include “developmental activities among the rural and tribal population of India.”

The Foundation has recently pioneered what is known as a the Jeevan Bindi or ‘Life-saving Dot’. The idea is essentially similar to that of an iodine patch, except that in this case, delivery is through a religious symbol – the bindi, or visible dot on the forehead –  which is worn by Indian women. For a brief explanation, I invite you to watch the 1-minute introductory video below:

Whilst I commend the initiative, and how “The bindi does not have any side effects or cause skin rashes and can be worn for many hours at a stretch. After the iodine of the bindi is absorbed by the body, it becomes a regular dot,” I am slightly concerned by the following section in their press release:

“The bindi needs to be worn every day for up to eight hours to be effective. It can be worn at night and even by pregnant women… (however) the NGO has yet to monitor the impact of the bindis on the iodine levels of the tribal women, Grey is now working on the second phase of this project wherein they plan to make these bindis available in the market.”

If the NGO has yet to monitor the impact of the Bindis on women’s iodine levels, then why are they releasing the product to the public, instead of first conducting a clinical study or randomised control trial? Apparently, I am not the only one with reservations. This article poses a number of medically-informed questions regarding the Jeevan Bindi, some with answers, some without. My aim in writing about the Jeevan Bindi project in this blog post is to raise awareness of the wonderful potential of this initiative, and to try to garner support for further research into the medical questions that should ideally be answered before it is mass-produced and disseminated to women. I whole-heartedly support such ideas, purely because of their simplicity and the wide-reach that they have with regard to those who need them the most.

Let us hope that all testing for the Jeevan Bindi occurs under monitored conditions, and that all outcomes favour the mass-distribution of this life-saving instrument.

Saneeya Qureshi © 2015

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