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Food Nutr Bull. 2017 Sep;38(3):447-452. doi: 10.1177/0379572117712791. Epub 2017 Jul 27.

Applying Positive Deviance for Improving Compliance to Adolescent Anemia Control Program in Tribal Communities of India.

Author information

1 Child Development and Nutrition Section, UNICEF India Country Office, New Delhi, India.
2 Positive Deviance Initiative, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA.
3 UNICEF State Office of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal, India.
4 Independent consultant.



Positive deviance (PD) is an asset-based social and behavior change communication strategy, utilizing successful outliers within a specific context. It has been applied to tackling major public health problems but not adolescent anemia.


The study, first of its kind, used PD to improve compliance to adolescent anemia control program in Jharkhand, India, where anemia prevalence in adolescent girls is 70%, and program compliance is low.


With leadership of state government, the study was designed and implemented by a multidisciplinary 42 member PD team, in Khunti district, in 2014. Participatory appraisals were undertaken with 434 adolescent girls, 18 frontline workers, 15 teachers, and 751 community leaders/parents/relatives. Stakeholders were interviewed to identify positive deviants and PD determinants across 17 villages.


Perceived benefits of iron folic acid tablet and nutritional care during adolescence are low. Positive deviants exist among adolescent girls (26 of 434), villages (2 of 17), and schools (2 of 17). Positive deviant adolescent girls consumed variety of iron-rich foods and in higher frequency, consumed iron folic acid tablets, and practiced recommended personal hygiene behaviors. Deviant practices in schools included supervision of students during tablet distribution among others.


Government-led PD approach uncovered local solutions and provided a forum for government functionaries to listen to and dialogue with, and an opportunity to adapt the program according to the needs of the affected communities, who are missing partners in program design and management.


adolescents; anemia; positive deviance

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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