Life Saving Dot: The New Bindi
Women in India have been sporting small dots between their eyebrows since the third or fourth century. The mark is called a bindi and is a Hindu tradition.

Historically, it has been worn for religious purposes or to show that a woman is married. Today, women of all ages wear the bindi just as a beauty mark.

A nonprofit organization based in Nashik, India has come up with a new reason to wear the bindi. The Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Center, in partnership with Grey Group Singapore, a company that makes advertisements, wants the bindi to become a source of iodine.

The two organizations initiated the Life Saving Dot program that coats bindis with a full daily recommended dose of iodine. Dr Prachi Pawar is the leader of the project. He explains that the skin can absorb the essential micronutrient, but the nonprofit is still studying just how efficient the dots are.

“It would have been more satisfying—and convincing—if [the organizers] had done a bit of work beforehand to show that it actually delivers iodine,” says Michael Zimmerman. He is a nutrition researcher for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

Roland Kupka is a micronutrient senior adviser for UNICEF. He points out that no one knows for sure if the iodine stays on the bindi. There is a chance that it might evaporate off when women spend time in the sun.

India is one of 54 countries struggling with iodine sufficiency. The soil there lacks iodine and, therefore, so do the crops. Iodized salt is unavailable to a third of all families in the country. According to UNICEF, 66 percent of families worldwide have access.

Iodine is necessary for the manufacture of thyroid hormones. For pregnant women, it is crucial for the development of the fetus’ brain. Iodine deficiency is the greatest cause of preventable but irreversible brain damage in the world. It also causes depression and weight gain in adults. Children can suffer from mental health issues like retardation and even death.

So far, more than 30,000 women in about 100 villages throughout India have been given the special iodine bindis. The organizations are starting to plan a system to produce and distribute them on a large scale.

If the Life Saving bindis are successful at administering iodine, they will be an affordable nutritional supplement: 10 repees, about 16 cents, for a package of 30 bindis.

The Neevlasant Medical Foundation and Research Center is a nongovernmental organization that strives to support rural and tribal parts of India and other developing countries. Started in August of 2005, they have specific programs for health, environment conservation, finance, child/women development, mental health and water conversation.

– Lillian Sickler

Sources: NPR, YouTube, Neelvasant Foundation, Indian Journal of Medical Research, Huffington Post, The Times of India, WHO
Photo: Health Life

In India, 350 million people are at risk for iodine deficiency. Iodine deficiency leads to a variety of harmful conditions in adults, including hypothyroidism, goiter, an increased risk for breast cancer, and brain damage. In the unborn children of mothers with a deficiency, the condition results in a condition known as fetal hypothyroidism, an improper conditioning of the gland in unborn children which can result in cognitive birth defects and even stillbirth.

So when Grey for Good, a charitable branch of the Singapore-based Grey Group, offered a solution to the problem, it needed to be innovative in combatting this very real public health risk. What they noticed is this: many Indian women wear a bindi, or a small red dot in the center of the forehead, for cultural or religious reasons. With this came an idea: is there a way to use the cultural trend to combat the condition?

Grey for Good teamed up with Indian NGO Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Center to begin distributing affordable bindis which double as iodine supplements. Called Life Saving Dot, or Jeevan Bindi, the back of each bindi is coated in iodine, creating a “patch” which can deliver up to 150 micrograms of iodine through the skin over the course of eight hours, which is the recommended amount of iodine for women.

Life Saving Dot is also affordable. A pack of 30 bindis is sold for 10 rupees, or just 16 cents. Perhaps this is why the bindis have reached over 300,000 women in 100 villages that the Indian government has deemed at risk for iodine deficiency.

In distributing Life Saving Dot, Grey for Good has taken an innovative approach to solving a problem, uniting medicine, technology, business and culture as a force for good. By bringing these things together, they have created a truly modern solution to the problem of iodine deficiency.

Andrew Michaels

Sources: Take Part, NPR, UpWorthy, Global Healing Center
Photo: Life Saving Dot/Facebook

Iodine deficiency is a problem for approximately 350 million Indians. In developed nations, most are able to get iodine through iodized salt in their diets or by taking supplements if necessary. However in India, many crops are grown in iodine-deprived soil. Also, iodized salt is not widely available in rural areas, and supplements are often too expensive for those who need them most.

Iodine deficiency can cause health problems such as goitre, an enlargement of the thyroid gland, and other thyroid conditions that can lead to breast cancer or fibroids. Iodine is especially important for pregnant women, who generally require double the amount than is typically needed. Pregnant women with iodine deficiencies can give birth to children with developmental problems or neurological conditions such as cretinism.

Iodine does not have to be ingested for one to receive the nutritional benefits. It can also be absorbed through the skin. This was the idea behind the Life Saving Dot, a bindi designed by the Grey for Good organization and the Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Center.

The bindi has religious significance for Hindus, but Indian women often wear it as a fashion statement regardless of religious affiliation. Bindis can be applied with colored powder, but many now wear sticker bindis, which come in endless shapes, colors, and sizes. The Life Saving Dot looks exactly like a real bindi, yet doubles as an iodine patch.

This bindi slowly releases the necessary amount of iodine, 150-200 micrograms, over the course of the day. It fits easily into the daily routine of any woman who normally wears a bindi, making it a convenient source of iodine. These bindis have been put into circulation by medical facilities in 100 villages and have been distributed to about 30,000 Indian women. Women receive a month’s supply, which costs 10 rupees or 16 cents.

While the Life Saving Dot shows success, there are concerns that the iodine solution will evaporate and leave very little to be absorbed by the body, especially in the harsh sunlight. Therefore, they may need to carry a larger dose than the standard 200 micrograms. Many tests will need to be done before it can be certain that the bindis are effective. These include estimations for urinary iodine, radio-iodine uptakes and thyroid hormones.

Even if the bindis do not make a significant impact on iodine deficiency in India, the organization has already achieved another goal. They wanted to bring more attention to the issue of iodine deficiency, as many do not understand its importance. In order to reach more women, Grey for Good is beginning more widespread distribution efforts, and in time, the Life Saving Dot could help end iodine deficiency in India.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: About Religion, GOOD Magazine, NPR, Scroll, Times of India
Photo: Fashion Lady