Targeting open defecation, other factors accelerates anemia reduction among pregnant women in India

BY SAMUEL SCOTT AND SUMAN CHAKRABARTI

One in two pregnant women in India are anemic. This condition of low blood hemoglobin, the protein in blood that delivers oxygen to tissues, is one of the most pervasive and persistent public health issues in India. Anemia during pregnancy is particularly worrisome, as it affects both the mother and the developing child. Negative outcomes associated with anemia during this critical period include maternal mortality, risk of infection, preterm delivery, and poor fetal and infant health.

In our new research article in Public Health Nutrition, we—along with co-authors from IFPRI, the Public Health Foundation of India, and Oxford Policy Management—identified sociodemographic, programmatic, and dietary drivers of anemia reduction in pregnant Indian women over 10. Among our findings: Lower rates of open defecation were correlated with lower anemia rates (see chart). This suggests that current efforts to eliminate open defecation in India may have the benefit of parallel reductions in anemia.

Photo credit: Shivani Kachwaha/IFPRI