No longer diseases of the wealthy: prevalence and health-seeking for self-reported chronic conditions among urban poor in Southern India

Upendra Bhojani Et al

BMC Health Services Research 2013,



The burden of chronic conditions is high in low- and middle-income countries and poses a significant challenge to already weak healthcare delivery systems in these countries. Studies investigating chronic conditions among the urban poor remain few and focused on specific chronic conditions rather than providing overall profile of chronic conditions in a given community, which is critical for planning and managing services within local health systems. We aimed to assess the prevalence and health- seeking behaviour for self-reported chronic conditions in a poor neighbourhood of a metropolitan city in India.


We conducted a house-to-house survey covering 9299 households (44514 individuals) using a structured questionnaire. We relied on self-report by respondents to assess presence of any chronic conditions, including diabetes and hypertension. Multivariable logistic regression was used to analyse the prevalence and health-seeking behaviour for self-reported chronic conditions in general as well as for diabetes and hypertension in particular. The predictor variables included age, sex, income, religion, household poverty status, presence of comorbid chronic conditions, and tiers in the local health care system.


Overall, the prevalence of self-reported chronic conditions was 13.8% (95% CI = 13.4, 14.2) among adults, with hypertension (10%) and diabetes (6.4%) being the most commonly reported conditions. Older people and women were more likely to report chronic conditions. We found reversal of socioeconomic gradient with people living below the poverty line at significantly greater odds of reporting chronic conditions than people living above the poverty line (OR = 3, 95% CI = 1.5, 5.8). Private healthcare providers managed over 80% of patients. A majority of patients were managed at the clinic/health centre level (42.9%), followed by the referral hospital (38.9%) and the super-specialty hospital (18.2%) level. An increase in income was positively associated with the use of private facilities. However, elderly people, people below the poverty line, and those seeking care from hospitals were more likely to use government services.


Our findings provide further evidence of the urgent need to improve care for chronic conditions for urban poor, with a preferential focus on improving service delivery in government health facilities.