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Examining intentions to take iron supplements to inform a behavioral intervention: The Reduction in Anemia through Normative Innovations (RANI) Project Público Deposited

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Background: More than half of women of reproductive age in India have anemia. Over the last decade, India has made some progress towards reducing anemia in pregnant women, but non-pregnant women, who make up the largest sub group of people with anemia, are largely disregarded. Objectives: The objective of this paper is to examine intentions to take iron supplements and factors associated with intentions to inform a social norms-based behavioral intervention to increase uptake of iron supplements and reduce anemia in Odisha, India. Methods: We collected data from 3,914 randomly sampled non-pregnant women of reproductive age in 81 villages. We conducted a survey and took hemocue (anemia level) readings from each participant. We analyzed data using linear regression models beginning with demographics and social norms and adding other factors such as self-efficacy to take iron supplements, anemia risk perception, and knowledge about anemia in a subsequent model. Results: 63% of women in our sample were anemic but less than 5% knew they were anemic. Despite national guidelines that all women of reproductive age should take weekly iron supplements to prevent anemia, less than 3% of women in our sample were currently taking them. While actual use was low, intentions were rather high. On a five point Likert scale where higher numbers meant more intentions to take supplements, average intentions were above the midpoint (M = 3.48, SD = 1.27) and intentions and iron supplement use were significantly correlated (r = .10, p < .001). Both injunctive norms and collective norms were associated with intentions to take iron supplements but descriptive norms were not. Other significant factors included age, breastfeeding, knowledge, self-efficacy, and outcome expectations. The final model accounted for 74% of the variance in iron supplement intentions. Conclusions: In this context, where the actual behavior is low but intentions to enact the behavior are high, starting an intervention with injunctive norms messaging (expectations around the behavior) and self-efficacy to enact the behavior is the step we recommend based on our results. As an intervention unfolds and iron supplement use increases, descriptive norms messaging (that people are indeed taking iron supplements) may add value.

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