Is fatigue a cue to obtain iron supplements in Odisha, India? A mixed methods investigation

Hagere Yilma, Erica Sedlander, Rajiv N. Rimal, Soumik Pattnaik

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1 Scopus citations


Objectives This study aims to understand if fatigue, the main symptom of anaemia, is a health concern that cues women and their referent groups to obtain iron folic acid supplements. Design This is a mixed methods study that consisted of a cross-sectional perceptual mapping and card sorting activity along with 16 focus group discussions with women of reproductive age, mothers-in-law and men. Participants of the perceptual mapping and card sorting activity were asked to compare images of anaemia-related items and concepts. Participants in the focus group discussions were asked about their daily life, aspirations and concerns among women and perceptions of anaemia and iron supplementation in the community. The quantitative data were analysed through multidimensional scaling and analyses of variance in SPSS. The qualitative data were analysed through applied thematic analysis using NVivo. Setting Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India. Participants Women of reproductive age (n=30), mothers-in-law (n=30) and married men (n=30) were randomly selected to participate in the perceptual mapping and card sorting exercise. A separate sample of each group was randomly selected for the focus group discussions (n=148). Primary and secondary outcome measures We collected perceptions of dissimilarity between anaemia-related items, including fatigue and medical items; the extent to which these items were perceived as important to health or likable; and qualitative information about gender norms. Results Cognitive maps and card sorting revealed that fatigue was conceptualised distinctly from items related to medical treatment and that perceptions around fatigue's importance to health were low. Women from the focus groups reported that fatigue is a regular part of their daily life. Conclusion Our results indicate that fatigue is currently not an adequate cue to seek treatment, perhaps due to the normalisation of fatigue as a part of women's daily life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number037471
JournalBMJ open
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 20 2020


  • anaemia
  • nutrition
  • public health
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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