Sprinkles are micronutrient iron supplements meant for children that avoid the nasty GI-related side effects and don’t taste bad. They’re also easy to put in children’s food- they’re like sprinkles. They’re extremely effective, but not very well disseminated among their target populations in Africa. Anemia affects nearly half of the world’s children under the age of five and can lead to health complications or death. However, parents have been slow to adopt using micronutrients like Sprinkles. How do you increase get parents to give these supplements to their kids?
The supplement packets are cheap and can be given away for free, but parents are more likely to use them if they have to buy them themselves. That’s a big deal! (One of my professors has talked about an increase in condom use if people purchase the condoms themselves, rather than receiving them for free, but I can’t find it in a cursory literature search.) Demonstrating the effects, as in a trial run, requires trust from the participants, but it works. Cultural competency- and just paying attention- will go a long way.
A study in Kenya illustrates how difficult getting people to use a seemingly basic intervention like Sprinkles can be. The study, which was run by the C.D.C., looked at 60 villages, with a total population of 80,000, from 2007 to 2010. While the results of the study were strong — anemia rates dropped 27 percent and vitamin A deficiency dropped by 17 percent — getting there took a lot of work.
Sprinkles were distributed by a local organization in the Nyando district of southwestern Kenya — the Safe Water and AIDS Project (SWAP) — in which local women sell subsidized health products ranging from malaria nets to sanitary napkins in their communities. The C.D.C. added Sprinkles to the mix. But making it work was challenging. Some people tried to use them as soap. Others were put off by the packet’s red color, which they associated with disease.
One vendor, Nancy Auma Omolo, from the village of Kacholo, said that people in her community were nervous that the vitamins were poison. They questioned why, if it was good for their children, the adults shouldn’t take it, too. “Do you want to get rid of our children?” they asked her. But once people started seeing how it worked, and the new energy that their children suddenly had, the packets became a popular seller.
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