Grand Challenges Canada

February 1 to February 7 marks International Development Week (IDW), celebrating Canada’s contribution to international development, especially in improving the health of women and children. The theme this year is “We are making a difference!” The entire week, Grand Challenges Canada will publish short success stories, showing how our Bold Ideas with Big Impact are saving and improving the lives of those who need it the most in developing nations. Through integrated innovation in global health, the novel projects we support are making a difference!

On our final post for International Development Week, we share a story of hope.  The story is fictional, but describes the potential impact of an innovation, and the very serious problem it will address, if it successfully goes from laboratory to scale.

Country: India
Organization: CBCI Society for Medical Education (St. John’s Research Institute)
Project Page:

India’s anemia rates are among the highest globally: over 79% of children aged 6 to 8 months have anemia; 58% of the 26 million women who are pregnant each year are diagnosed with anemia. Iron deficiency anemia dramatically affects the health of a pregnant woman and her unborn baby, increasing risks of death and sickness during childbirth, including hemorrhage and low-birth weight.

Iron Biscuits-200dpi

Iron fortified biscuits

Imagine a young woman named Lakshmi from India, she is pregnant with her first child and suffering. She is unable and unwilling to take her routine iron medications due to numerous side effects including bowel discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Lakshmi also perceived the iron pill as a drug only to be taken during serious illness. Eventually, her hemoglobin levels dropped and she became anemic.

Her doctor and the Public Health Research team in Bangalore learned about Lakshmi’s condition. They suggested she consume iron-fortified biscuits, an innovation supported by Grand Challenges Canada. These novel biscuits are indistinguishable in taste from popular Indian biscuits but provide the necessary iron intake.

Lakshmi enjoyed the biscuits, and started to eat them regularly. The side effects subsided significantly, and her hemoglobin levels improved. Lakshmi delivered a healthy baby a few months later. She is now a strong supporter of the biscuits and recommends her friends and relatives, who are planning for a baby, to eat these biscuits during pregnancy.

We encourage you to post your questions and comments about this blog post on our Facebook page Grand Challenges Canada and on Twitter @gchallenges, #IDW2015