Yasmin (45), who lives in a crowded colony in Kadugondanahalli (K.G. Halli), had to have her leg amputated due to uncontrolled diabetes. The reason: she was not regular with medicines for years due to ignorance about the possible complications that could arise.
Her neighbour Husseinbi (60) has been suffering from hypertension for 12 years. She spends anywhere between Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 every month on medicines. Her husband is an auto driver.
For people from low-income families suffering diseases like hypertension and diabetes, a major component of their income goes to buying medicines. A study by the Institute of Public Health (IPH), Bengaluru, shows that many choose to forgo treatment, going to the doctor only when complications arise. The study has been published in BMC Public Health, an open access peer-reviewed journal. It covered patients in K.G. Halli from 2009 to 2015.
A survey (in 2009-2010) revealed that among approximately 45,000 individuals surveyed, 8.6% reported chronic illnesses
When the team conducted a follow-up survey in 2013, there was a 1.8 % increase in self-reported cases of diabetes and 1% increase in cases of hypertension
Overall, there was a 3.4% increase in chronic illnesses
Diabetes spares no one
Upendra Bhojani, Assistant Director at IPH, who published the study, said that lifestyle diseases are being reported in larger numbers among low-income families.
“There is a shift in the way diseases are distributed, with more cases being reported among lower-income groups,” he said.
The IPH team is encouraging patients to maintain their medical history and are given a book which they are advised to take to the doctor.
B.S. Thriveni, director of Sarvagna Health Care Institute (SHCI), said that while primary health centres offer first-generation drugs, they are ill-equipped to deal with complicated cases or those that need long-acting insulin. “There are times when insulin is out of stock or the patient needs advanced medicines when the first-generation drugs do not work,” said Dr. Thriveni.
The SHCI offers medicines free to patients from low-income families and subsidies to others. Almost all patients visiting the clinic for dialysis developed kidney complications due to uncontrolled diabetes, which could have been prevented through medication.
“We give short-acting insulin when stock is available,” said Meenakshi, duty nurse in the community health centre at K.G. Halli. First-generation medicines for diabetes are provided free to all patients. But patients are asked to buy second-generation drugs and long-acting insulin, which are expensive, she said.
When insulin is out of stock or the patient needs advanced medicines, the government health system falls short – B.S. Thriveni, director, Sarvagna Health Care Institute