Part III: Why we should invest more in nonpregnant, underserved women

Today is the third of our three-part series on why we believe that investments in women’s health should be more inclusive. We'll profile Gayathri, our newest community health worker.

Gayathri experienced something she never had before when she joined Tulalens. 

“(Taking part in the service) meant that I’d be doing something for myself whereas usually everything I do revolves around taking care of others.” 

Her family has been incredibly supportive of her, which certainly helped her and her family adopt iron-rich foods into their diet. She lives with her two kids, her husband and mother-in-law. But, it wasn’t all easy.

Initially she didn’t realize the importance of what we were doing. Her husband is at work during breakfast and lunch so she found it easier to buy pre-made food at local shops that had no nutritional value than to cook iron-rich foods. When we found she wasn’t adopting any iron-rich ingredients over several weeks, we experimented by pairing her up with another customer and by having them keep each other motivated to achieve weekly goals. If they both achieved the goal, we promised them an incentive. The other customer didn’t achieve her nutrition goal, but Gayathri did, and has continued to do so for months after this. She was moved by the fact that we were actively thinking about ways to motivate her and that we didn’t give up on her. Once she started incorporating the iron-rich ingredients in her diet, she realized that it was easy to do. 

Gayathri and one her kids in front of her home                              in Chennai. 

Gayathri and one her kids in front of her home                              in Chennai. 

Gayathri always aspired to become a nurse, but was pressured into getting married and having children like many young women in urban slums. She’ll now be able to carry out her dream in a different form by becoming our first full-time paid community health worker. 

Women like Gayathri find the symptoms from iron-deficiency anemia to be a major and daily pain point. However, it is hard for them to prioritize eating iron-rich foods when they have to worry about walking 100m to use the toilet, walking to the water pump several times a day to ensure they have water, cooking on an open-fire kerosene stove and ensuring that rats don’t enter their house and bite their children in the evenings. 

Gayathri has taught us the benefits of being more experimental. As we sign up additional customers, we’ll try pairing women together and gamifying the process to keep women and their families engaged and healthy.