The Gates Foundation Backs A “Lucky” Cure For Anemia

Kirchner Group is an investor in Lucky Iron Fish.

In Cambodia, the Lucky Iron Fish offers a lesson in how to make public health interventions stick.

The Lucky Iron Fish is Cambodia’s cure for anemia. A household simply tosses the fish-shaped lump of iron into the cooking pot and enough iron is leached out to fill up to 75% of the recommended daily iron intake. The Fish is manufactured in Cambodia and has been a great success, with a 92% compliance rate. Effectively, it has cured anemia in families that have had it.

Now, the Lucky Fish has received a grant for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will go into research. “A multi-national study will prove that the fish has a positive impact across cultures, religions, and diets,” says Gavin Armstrong, president and CEO of Lucky Fish. “We can further explore the effect on different populations (pregnant women and young children).”

The Lucky Fish was originally designed just for Cambodia. The original was a shapeless blob of iron, but “almost no one used it,” says Armstrong. He researched the problem, and the team decided to shape the iron blob like Cambodia’s symbol for good luck—a fish. With the company planning on expanding to other places, the team is developing education material to go along with the fish. But will the Cambodian symbol for luck translate to other cultures? “Our focus groups have shown that the symbol of a fish will work across cultures and religions,” says Armstrong.

Why not just use cast-iron cookware? One, it rusts easily, and the body doesn’t have a use for rusted iron. The Fish, on the other hand, is designed to leach just the right kind of iron. It’s also easier to keep dry, avoiding rust. Second, your cast-iron skillet is likely seasoned with oil, which gives it that great non-stick polymer coating. And that coating stops the iron getting into your food.

If you’re worried about iron in your own diet, you can buy yourself a Lucky Iron Fish, although it will be manufactured in Canada, not Cambodia. In fact, the fish can be bought in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and works on a “give one, get one” basis, with a fish going to Cambodia for every $25 one you buy. Spend $35 instead and five fish get sent to people who need them.

Source: Fast Company