How an Iodine-Soaked Bindi is Saving Women’s Lives Across India

The “life-saving dot” is part cultural adornment, part innovative medical tech, and a wholly unique way to make a difference.

image via vimeo screen capture

The bindi, South-East Asia’s immediately-recognizable forehead adornment, has been many things over the course of its history: Religious signifier, meditative aid, and lately, part of the ongoing conversation about cultural appropriation. For scores of women across India, however, the bindi has becomes something else entirely: A life saver, providing much-needed relief to rural communities in which a dangerous vitamin deficiency has been linked to everything from pregnancy complications to breast cancer.

Most people across the United States and throughout the developed world get their body’s requisite dose of iodine by way of their diet (think “iodized salt”). For those whose diets don’t provide enough of this hormone-regulating chemical, supplements can help boost the body’s iodine levels. In parts of rural India, however, those supplements can be both prohibitively expensive, and hard to come by. Enter “The Life Saving Dot,” a specially engineered iodine patch that is indistinguishable from the ubiquitous colored bindis worn by women across South-East Asia.


Created by Grey For Good, the philanthropic arm of the Grey Group Singapore communications firm, in partnership with the Neelvasant Medical Foundation and Research Centre and Talwar Bindi manufacturers, the patches slowly release the recommended amount of iodine over the course the day, while fitting seamlessly into the daily routines of millions of Indian women who already affix bindis to their foreheads on a regular basis. Per a Grey Group Singapore release, the bindis have already been put into circulation at medical camps in a number of rural villages across India. What’s more, according to CEO Ali Shabaz, “This program can easily be extended to reach a larger population of women in India who need this vital mineral for a healthier life.”

[via design indaba]