Friday, August 10, 2012

Measuring “illness” and treatment-seeking behavior in rural India: a qualitative study of malarial infection among marginalized populations, Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, India.

Radhika Sundararajan MD PhD
Harvard-Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency

My data collection in Gadchiroli District has come to an end for this year, and am now heading back to Boston to start the data analysis phase. It was quite an experience living and working in rural India during the monsoon season, battling mosquitoes, avoiding poisonous snakes, learning to have patience for power cuts, slow (and often non-working internet), phone service outages and learning to tolerate the overall dampness of everything I owned. Besides the innumerable lessons that came with each day of qualitative research, rounding in the rural hospital, and shadowing the physicians in outpatient clinic, I even learned that mold can actually grow on the outside of a suitcase and that DEET does not appear to deter the robust mosquitoes in this area. I will miss the lush greenery of forests, and rice paddies dotted with bright sarees and livestock. I am, however, looking forward to sleeping in my warm, dry bed. 

Our qualitative study of malaria infection and treatment-seeking practices among rural tribal communities led us to speak with over 80 people in this area, learning more about how malaria is conceptualized, knowledge is created, and disease treated (or not treated), from perspective of patients, health providers, community health workers and district health officials. This is a rather large sample for a qualitative study! I was privileged to carry out this important work in collaboration with the spectacular NGO, SEARCH (, through which a tribal hospital and rural health outpatient clinics have been established, as well as a mobile medical unit which visits remote villages on a weekly basis to provide medical care. I look forward to returning to Gadchiroli next year to carry out the next phase of our project, which will be developed based on the results from this year's data collection. I have been assured that the climate is much more dry outside of the monsoon!

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