Anemia and neural tube defects are widespread, preventable health problems that primarily lead to the suffering of women and children. Poverty predisposes people to anemia and neural tube defects for a variety of reasons, including inadequate nutrition, weak health systems, infectious/parasitic disease, and limited access to fortified foods.
Iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) occurs when the body does not have enough iron to produce hemoglobin and cannot carry sufficient levels of oxygen around the body. IDA is responsible for roughly half of the 2.36 billion cases of anemia globally, and accounts for four percent of all years lived with disability. Anemia can cause chronic tiredness/fatigue, impaired cognitive development in children, low moods and low productivity in adults, and even increase risk for depressive symptoms and heart disease.
Neural tube defects
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are developmental abnormalities affecting the spine, spinal cord, and brain, largely due to folic acid deficiency within the first month of pregnancy. NTDs account for over five million DALYs and over 40 thousand deaths annually.
Anemia in India
Across India, 38.3 percent of the population suffers from iron deficiency anemia (compared to 2.3 percent in the US). Anemia affects 55.3 percent of women and 69.5 percent of children in India considering all causes (including anemia resulting from iron deficiency, intestinal worms, etc.).
NTDs in India
Nearly 100,000 children are thought to be born with neural tube defects each year in India.