I have worked since 2011 with colleagues at Public Health Foundation of India in New Delhi, India. Some of our research is provided below.
Type 2 diabetes has escalated in urban India in the past two decades. Historically a disease of the affluent, recent epidemiological evidence indicates rising diabetes incidence and prevalence in urban India’s middle class and working poor. Although there is substantial qualitative data about people with diabetes from high-income countries, scant resources provide insight into diabetes experiences among those in India, and lower-income groups specifically. In this article, we use individual-level analysis of illness narratives to understand how people experience and understand diabetes across income groups in Delhi, India.We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews and administered the Hopkins Symptoms Check-List (HSCL-25) to evaluate depression among 59 people with diabetes in northeast Delhi between December 2011 and February 2012. We analyzed their responses to: 1) what caused your diabetes?; 2) what do you find most stressful in your daily life?; and 3) where do you seek diabetes care?We found few people held diabetes beliefs that were congruent with socio-spiritual or biomedical explanatory models, and higher income participants commonly cited “tension” as a contributor to diabetes. Stress associated with children’s futures, financial security, and family dynamics were most commonly reported, but how these subjective stresses were realized in people’s lives varied across income groups. Depression was most common among the poorest income group (55%) but was also reported among middle- (38%) and high income (29%) participants. One-quarter of respondents reported diabetes distress, but only those from the low-income community reported co-occurring depression and these respondents often revealed poor access to diabetes care. These data suggest that lower-income populations not only have higher rates of depression but also may be more likely to delay health care and therefore develop diabetes complications. This research has many implications for public health care in India as diabetes prevalence shifts to affect lower income groups who concurrently experience higher rates of depression and poorer access to medical care.
The Type 2 diabetes epidemic in India poses challenges to the health system. Yet little is known about how urban Indians view treatment and self-care. Such views are important within the pluralistic healthcare landscape of India, bringing together allopathic and nonallopathic (or traditional) paradigms and practices. We used in-depth qualitative interviews to examine how people living with diabetes in India selectively engage with allopathic and non-allopathic Indian care paradigms. We propose a ‘discourse marketplace’ model that demonstrates competing ways in which people frame diabetes careseeking in India’s medical pluralism, which includes allopathic and traditional systems of care. Four major domains emerged from grounded theory analysis: (1) normalization of diabetes in social interactions; (2) stigma; (3) stress; and (4) decision-making with regard to diabetes treatment. We found that participants selectively engaged with aspects of allopathic and non-allopathic Indian illness paradigms to build personalized illness meanings and care plans that served psychological, physical, and social needs. Participants constructed illness narratives that emphasized the social-communal experience of diabetes and, as a result, reported less stigma and stress due to diabetes. These data suggest that the pro-social construction of diabetes in India is both helpful and harmful for patients it provides psychological comfort, but also lessens the impetus for prevention and self-care. Clarifying the social constructions of diabetes and chronic disease in India and other medically pluralistic contexts is a crucial first step to designing locally situated treatment schemes.
As diabetes prevalence shifts from affluent to lower-income groups in India, focus on depression in diabetes will become essential. This paper describes four perspectives through which depression and diabetes should be understood in the Indian context. We consider (1) how rapid socio-economic and demographic changes contribute to increased co-occurring diabetes and depression; (2) how social, cultural and economic factors in the Indian context contribute to depression and therefore play an important role in diabetes care; (3) biological and behavioural pathways between depression and diabetes; and (4) the role of health systems in depression, diabetes and their overlap. We conclude with recommendations for future research and policy on this topic in India.