World map where size of country reflects the number of iron-deficiency anemia related deaths. WHO 2004
About Rajvi and the Team
Rajvi Mehta is a medical student at Duke University. She was born and raised in India, and completed her undergraduate education at Brown University. At Brown, Mehta suffered the consequences of anemia and soon realized the scope of the problem in her home country. She founded Let’s Be Well Red along with fellow students at Brown University to mobilize a Health Scouts program in India. Eventually, this led to the development of GudNeSs bars. Now the team has spread to Duke University, where 15 other medical students have joined to manage various aspects from business and marketing and expanding GudNeSs to even more people in India.
Let's Be Well Red aims to end iron-deficiency anemia in India
We pick up where previous government efforts have failed. We focus on building a grassroots movement of education and empowerment—through our ‘Health Scouts’ program—and on providing a solution to the problem in the form of GudNeSs bars.
Iron-deficiency anemia is the world’s most prevalent nutritional disorder. It is easily treated through having an adequate amount of iron in the diet, yet it remains a massive problem in India. It affects 900 million in India and accounts for 65% of maternal and fetal deaths.
THE FAILURE OF PREVIOUS EFFORTS
Current treatment plans consist of pills that can have adverse reactions, or nutritional guidance that is hard to follow.
A short-term option for treating Anemia is iron pills and while iron pills are cheap and easily available, they contain 300 mg of non-heme inorganic iron which is difficult for the body to absorb. Iron is sparingly soluble in water, so a high iron intake may lead to bowel irritation and organ failure due to accumulation. Hence, iron-pills cannot be consumed for long durations.
A market scan of government health programs found that some had neglected nutrition completely in their treatment regime. Others distributed iron-fortified flour and rice, but these programs were unsuccessful due to the lack of awareness about the dosage and the amount needed to be consumed in order to satisfy the daily iron requirements.
Among the patients we surveyed, we found high demand for an accessible treatment option.
In 2011, LBWR conducted anemia testing and treating camps during which we tested and treated over 5000 anemic patients. During these interactions we found was that while most women were enthusiastic about adding iron to their diet after understanding the consequences of anemia, they were looking for a simple solution to their problem--they were looking for one iron-rich food supplement that contained the required daily dosage of iron.
We've focused on sustainability, accessibility, and empowerment.
We believe the key to winning this fight is mobilizing a grassroots movement of education and empowerment, through our Health Scouts Program. Health Scouts are composed of high school students who spread education and awareness about anemia in their local communities. Last year, the number of Health Scouts grew from 100 to 400.
In September 2012, we launched GudNeSs bars- a simple and affordable solution to the anemia crisis in India. GudNeSs is an easy to eat, palatable, iron-rich nutritional supplement bar that contains the daily-recommended dose of iron. The proprietary recipe uses locally sourced ingredients found in the Indian diet that are rich in iron. The bars last up to 6 months and cost a nominal 10 rupees (16 cents). To put that in perspective, that costs between a cup of chai and a small bag of chips. We are currently in:
- Schools (currently working on mid-day meals)
- Retail stores
- (upcoming) Hospitals and Airlines
Women production units
We've set up women production units in rural areas and villages, where we train women and provide the raw materials necessary to produce GudNeSs bars. The profits they generate from selling the bars to local villagers stay with the women. This not only provides much needed additional income to the families, it also helps spread our solution to hard-to-reach areas.
Even though the cost of a GudNeSs bar is a nominal 10 rupees, it can still be out of reach of too many Indians living in slums and rural areas. Therefore, we've setup our business model to use all the profits from sales of bars in urban centers to further subsidize and lower the cost in rural areas.