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Reducing Anaemia

  • LocationIndia
  • SectorHealth
  • Type of investmentGrant
  • Project stageTest & Transition

A £1.3m grant to J-PAL South Asia to support a randomised controlled trial in Tamil Nadu, India to test whether distribution of free fortified rice through the Public Distribution System is a cost-effective way to treat anaemia at scale.

Reducing Anaemia

The development problem.

Anaemia is the most common form of malnutrition, affecting approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide. In Tamil Nadu, anaemia affects 60% of children between six months and five years of age, and more than half of pregnant women. Despite research showing that dietary iron and other micronutrients can help to alleviate the problem, in practice they are often ineffective as their usage relies on recipients actively using them.

The innovation.

The innovation being tested in this study is distributing fortified rice via the already existing Public Distribution System (PDS) that delivers free rice to all households in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Whereas other programs require people to remember to take iron pills, or to go out of their way to buy fortified food, this intervention involves no behaviour change from consumers.

GIF’s investment.

GIF’s investment will support a randomised controlled trial to test whether the distribution of fortified rice through the PDS is a cost-effective way to treat anaemia at scale. The J-PAL team will also be collecting information, carrying out implementation and advocacy activities, and producing guidance to facilitate the potential scale-up of the intervention by the Government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN).

If this RCT shows that public distribution of fortified rice is a cost-effective way to treat anaemia, then the GoTN will look to scale up the innovation across the state (population of 72 million). The GoTN is contributing both human and financial resources to the study.

Investment objective(s).

Address anaemia and micro-nutrient deficiencies in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu by providing iron and micronutrient fortified rice through the Public Distribution System and conduct a rigorous randomised control trial to evaluate the impact of this approach.

Why we invested

The RCT addresses an important public health challenge in India and beyond with significant benefits on the health of women and children and general productivity.

The RCT and complementary activities will test the effectiveness of rice fortification close to actual program conditions on a large scale.

The study has been designed in close collaboration with, and with strong support from the GoTN, which is contributing human and financial resources to the study.

The intervention has the potential to be highly cost-effective and scalable – the PDS covers 72 million people in Tamil Nadu alone.

This project is high on the agenda for J-PAL South Asia at IFMR – this is their first partnership with a state government and the first RCT co-funded by the GoTN under the joint MoU.

This intervention also supports a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals including: Goal 1 (No Poverty) and 2 (End Hunger).

Click here to read Reducing Anaemia’s Impact Brief.

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