LET'S BE WELL 'RED'
80% of India is anemic and 10% is thalassemic but not many Indians are aware of this. I founded the project `Let's be Well `Red'' over summer 2011 to combat anemia and thalassemia in India. Under the guidance of the Family Planning Association of India and the Nargis Dutt Charitable trust, I tested and treated Indian women for anemia and thalassemia: awareness was spread, hemoglobin levels were measured, nutritional guidance was provided and iron pills were prescribed. The follow up studies allowed me to monitor the treatment regime I had assigned to my patients and further answer any concerns or queries that the patient may have. The project garnered a lot of attention from the media and from the Indian Government. The camps were covered by local newspapers and the animated clip which I conceptualized and prepared was played on national television. Before leaving India that summer, I trained students from different schools and colleges who are carrying forward this project at present. The following semester (Fall 2011), my project featured in Brown's Newsletter `Behind the Science' and Carlota, a student at Brown, expressed her interest for the cause. During my work over summer 2011 and through the patient interaction, I had realized that a major cause for the spread of anemia was the lack of awareness of iron rich food products so, as the next step in combating anemia in India, I decided to create “GudOats”, an iron-rich, nutritional, oat and jaggery based bar which would be made nationally available. I am currently in the process of establishing a non-profit company which will consist of a production, packaging and sales unit. Following this, the summer will be spent holding camps to market “GudOats”. These camps will be held in different locations to include participants from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Studies to test the effectiveness of the bar and the elasticity of the costing of “GudOats” will be conducted.
Born and brought up in India, a country that accounts for more than 20% of global maternal and child deaths, I have decided to dedicate my life to the field of women’s health issues, particularly reproductive health. My decision was further influenced by the hardships and problems that my aunt and mother had to cope with during their pregnancies. While my aunt suffers from premature ovarian failure, my mother, a thalassmeia minor, had two miscarriages and severe, life threatening complications during her second pregnancy due to severely low hemoglobin levels. My desire to start the project ‘Let’s be well ‘Red’ was inspired by my experience in Fall 2010.Towards the end of fall 2010, I began experiencing sudden chest pain during stressful situations and grew very weak. I could not climb the stairs without feeling exhausted and dizzy. My health took a toll on my ability to study as well and my grades suffered. That winter break, my blood test revealed that I had very low hemoglobin levels and that I was thalassemia minor as well. Given that I had a healthy childhood, I had never been tested for thalassemia and this incident made me realize that there might be so many other Indians who are unaware of their condition. I arranged meetings with a few physicians in Mumbai and after reading previously conducted studies, I found that 80% of the women in India are anemic and 10% are thalassemic. Further, anemia is responsible for 60%-65% of the maternal and fetal deaths in India. I decided that I wanted to find a solution to this problem. My work over summer 2011 gave me insight into the current situation of anemia and thalassemia in India and I realized most of the government programs launched to combat anemia had failed because while these focused on distributing iron pills among the poor, the nutritional component of the treatment had been neglected. Through interacting with my patients, I found that not only was there a general lack of awareness about anemia and thalassemia but there was also a lack of awareness of iron rich food products. So, as the next step in combating anemia in India, I start a non-profit company for manufacturing “GudOats”, an iron-rich, nutritional, oat and jaggery based bar. While our first unit will be set up in Mumbai, the final goal of the project is to make “GudOats” nationally available. My work on ‘Let’s be well ‘Red’’ provided me with some great clinical experience and insights. It was a truly empowering experience that showed me the difference one person can make.