Background: Anaemia is an important problem amongst young children living in rural India. However, there has not previously been a detailed study of the biological aetiology of this anaemia, exploring the relative contributions of iron, vitamin B12, folate and Vitamin A deficiency, inflammation, genetic haemoglobinopathy, hookworm and malaria. Nor have studies related these aetiologic biological factors to household food security, standard of living and child feeding practices. Barriers to conducting such work have included perceived reluctance of village communities to permit their children to undergo venipuncture, and logistical issues. We have successfully completed a community based, cross sectional field study exploring in detail the causes of anaemia amongst young children in a rural setting.
Methods and design: A cross sectional, community based study. We engaged in extensive community consultation and tailored our study design to the outcomes of these discussions. We utilised local women as field workers, harnessing the capacity of local health workers to assist with the study. We adopted a programmatic approach with a census rather than random sampling strategy in the village, incorporating appropriate case management for children identified to have anaemia. We developed a questionnaire based on existing standard measurement tools for standard of living, food security and nutrition. Specimen processing was conducted at the Primary Health Centre laboratory prior to transport to an urban research laboratory.
Discussion: Adopting this study design, we have recruited 415 of 470 potentially eligible children who were living in the selected villages. We achieved support from the community and cooperation of local health workers. Our results will improve the understanding into anaemia amongst young children in rural India. However, many further studies are required to understand the health problems of the population of rural India, and our study design and technique provide a useful demonstration of a successful strategy.