Young female garment workers (FGWs), especially migrants often have low hemoglobin levels, resulting in persistent weakness and fatigue, affecting their overall physical and mental wellbeing. How do we improve adherence and take-up of iron tablets amongst anemic women?
51% of Indian women between the age of 15-49 years are anemic, according to the 2017 Global Nutrition Report. This is a serious nutritional challenge, as anemia can be a hindrance to female participation in the workforce and productivity, in addition to its direct impact on physical health. Estimates suggest that India maybe losing around 0.9% of its GDP due to iron-deficiency anaemia, which could translate to a loss of more than $20 billion. In such a scenario tackling anemia in the garment industry, which is heavily dependent on female frontline workers, is crucial. Shahi Exports, which is testing all its female workers across factories in South India with the assistance of the ESIC and DoF, Karnataka, will be providing iron supplementation tablets to the workers identified as anemic. In addition to this, the FGWs will be counselled on the importance of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. We are testing the impacts of the provision of iron supplementation tablets to FGWs on their physical and mental health, energy levels and workplace outcomes. We are also looking at high impact ways to improve take up of the tablets among anemic women.
Our experiment will only cover mildly and moderately anemic women, as severely anemic women often require emergency medical care. The uniqueness of our experiment lies in the fact that we will be varying how iron tablets are administered to anemic women across randomly chosen sub groups. One group will be administered the tablets daily at the factory dispensary and the other will be given tablets in lumpsum (for a period of 10 days together). Among those who will have to pick up the tablets, one group will receive simple SMS-based reminders, while the other will be exposed to information on how the health outcomes of their co-workers improved after taking the tablets. This will help us understand the impact of learning and peer feedback on adherence. By choosing these groups randomly, we will be able to establish a direct causal relationship between take-up and the method of administration of the tablets.
Currently, the ESIC is screening FGWs across Shahi factories in South India.
Training workers with soft skills like time and stress management, problem solving, communication and teamwork can have big impacts on the productivity of workers and company profits, says a University of Michigan researcher Achyuta Adhvaryu, assistant professor of business economics and public policy at Michigan's Ross School of Business.
"Our goal with starting a foundation is to study interventions that have the potential to impact worker welfare while also promoting the growth of firms," Adhvaryu said in a statement. "We incubate new ideas and serve as a platform to disseminate findings from our research."
In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, the three co-founders of Good Business Lab, Achyuta Adhvaryu: Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan, Anant Nyshadham: Assistant Professor of Economics, Boston College and Anant Ahuja: Head of Organizational Development, Shahi Exports discuss the research of Good Business Lab and why it is wise for firms to invest in its workers’ welfare.