Diarrhea no more: Does zinc help the poor? Evidence on the effectiveness of programmatic efforts to reach poorest in delivering zinc and ORS at scale in UP and Gujarat, India

Amnesty E. Le Fevre, Diwakar Mohan, Sarmila Mazumder, Laura L. Lamberti, Sunita Taneja, Robert E. Black, Christa L. Fischer-Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background India has the greatest burden of diarrhea in children under 5 years globally. The Diarrhea Alleviation through zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) Therapy program (2010-2014) sought to improve access to and utilization of zinc and ORS among children 2-59 months in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh (UP), India, through public and private sector delivery channels. In this analysis, we present findings on program's effect in reducing child-health inequities. Methods Data from cross-sectional baseline and endline surveys were used to assess disparities in key outcomes across six dimensions: socioeconomic strata, gender, caregiver education, ethnicity and geography. Results Careseeking outside the home for children under 5 years with diarrhea did not increase significantly in UP or Gujarat across socioeconomic strata. Declines in private sector careseeking were observed in both sites along with concurrent increases in public sector careseeking. Zinc, ORS, zinc+ORS use did not increase significantly in UP across socioeconomic strata. In Gujarat, increases in zinc use (20% overall; 33% in the Quintile 5 (Q5) strata and zinc+ORS (18% overall; 30% in the Q5 strata) were disproportionately observed in the high income strata, among members of the most advantaged caste, and among children whose mothers had =1 year of schooling. ORS use increased significantly across all socioeconomic strata for children in Gujarat with diarrhea (23% overall; 33% in Q5 strata) and those with dehydration + diarrhea (33% overall; 38% in Q5 strata). The magnitude of increase in ORS receipt from the public sector was nearly twice that observed in the private sector. In Gujarat, while out of pocket spending for diarrhea was significantly higher for male children, overall costs to users declined by a mean of US$ 2; largely due to significant reductions in wages lost (-US$ 0.79; P < 0.003), and transportation costs (-US$ 0.44; P < 0.00). Conclusions While significant improvements in diarrhea treatment were achieved in Gujarat, new strategies are needed in UP, particularly in the private sector. If national-level reductions in diarrheal disease burden are to be realized, improved understanding is needed of how to optimally increase coverage of zinc and ORS and decrease contraindicated treatments amongst the most disadvantaged across geographic areas and axes of gender, ethnicity, education and socioeconomic status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021001
JournalJournal of global health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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