a new kind of bindiWhether wealthy or poor, the women of India are proud of their heritage and embrace their unique culture. One of the most noticeable components of Indian women’s culture is the bindi. While the rest of the world views it as a simple accessory, this tiny dot that sits in the middle of the woman’s forehead is a key element of reflecting Hinduism. Today the bindi is capable of being more than a religious adornment. The Life Saving Dot is a new kind of bindi that provides its wearer with a daily dose of iodine.

Iodine Deficiency in India

Iodine Deficiency Disorder, or IDD, is especially common in India due to the lack of iodized soil and nutrition. The Life Saving Dot has not only directly improved women’s health, but has also brought attention to the importance of including iodine in the everyday diet.

IDD is common especially in India for a number of reasons. The soil in India is famous for its lack of iodization, leaving crops with an insufficient amount of iodine. A majority of Indians favor a vegetarian diet and rarely eat seafood, which is another important source of iodine. A lack of iodized nutrition and a simple lack of awareness are the main contributors to IDD in India.

Iodine deficiency leads to a number of health issues. It is the largest contributor to brain damage which is often permanent. IDD is especially common among women as it affects pregnancy and can lead to breast cancer. Although IDD can have severe consequences, the disorder itself is easily preventable with a sufficient daily dose of iodine.

The Life Saving Dot: How it Works

The technology of the Life Saving Dot is comparable to that of a nicotine patch. The wearer absorbs the nutrients through her skin while wearing the patch. The Life Saving Dot provides the wearer with 150 to 200 micrograms of iodine when worn for at least four hours. While most women wearing the Life Saving Dot report beneficial results, the effectiveness of the dot will depend on certain factors such as skin thickness and even weather. The precipitation level of the current climate has the potential to affect the effectiveness of the dot.

This small dot has had a tremendous impact on the overall health of Indian women. Women wearing this bindi have reported a decrease in headaches, a common side effect of iodine deficiency. Costing only 10 rupees (equivalent to 16 cents in USD) for a pack of 30 dots, it is easily accessible to women of all income levels in India.

Impact of the Life Saving Dot

While the Life Saving Dot has a clearly direct impact on women’s health, perhaps the most important success of the dot is the awareness it created. The greatest contributor to IDD in India is a simple lack of awareness of the importance of iodine. An easy and effective way to combat iodine deficiency is by cooking with iodized salt. However, a significant number of Indian households were unaware of its importance.

India has made great progress in the search for IDD alleviation. According to a recent survey conducted from October 2018 to March 2019, awareness of iodized salt benefits is at 62.2% in urban areas and 50.5% in rural areas. Out of the 21,406 households included in the survey, 76.3% now have iodized salt in the home.

Awareness of iodine necessity increased due to media and the efforts of the Life Saving Dot. This new kind of bindi allows women to represent their proud culture while protecting their health. The direct health benefits of the Life Saving Dot are awe-inspiring and the awareness it presents is life-saving. By improving the awareness of the importance of incorporating iodine into one’s diet, families are protected from goiter, pregnancy complications and even brain disorders. Thanks to a small dot on the forehead, Indian women and their families are protected from IDD and the potential health risks it brings.

– Brittany Carter 
Photo: Flickr

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, 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 solve 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