Challenges in primary care for diabetes and hypertension: an observational study of the Kolar district in rural India

D. Lall*, N. Engel, N. Devadasan, K. Horstman, B. Criel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Web of Science)


BackgroundChronic diseases have emerged as the leading cause of death globally, and 20% of Indians are estimated to suffer from a chronic condition. Care for chronic diseases poses a major public health challenge, especially when health care delivery has been geared traditionally towards acute care. In this study, we aimed to better understand how primary care for diabetes and hypertension is currently organised in first-line health facilities in rural India, and propose evidence-based ways forward for strengthening local health systems to address chronic problems.MethodsWe used qualitative and quantitative methods to gain insight into how care is organised and how patients and providers manage within this delivery system. We conducted in-depth interviews with the medical doctors working in three private clinics and in three public primary health centres. We also interviewed 24 patients with chronic diseases receiving care in the two sub-sectors. Non-participant observations and facility assessments were performed to triangulate the findings from the interviews.ResultsThe current delivery system has many problems impeding the delivery of quality care for chronic conditions. In both the public and private facilities studied, the care processes are very doctor-centred, with little room for other health centre staff. Doctors face very high workloads, especially in the public sector, jeopardising proper communication with patients and adequate counselling. In addition, the health information system is fragmented and provides little or no support for patient follow-up and self-management. The patient is largely left on their own in trying to make sense of their condition and in finding their way in a complex and scattered health care landscape.ConclusionsThe design and organisation of care for persons with chronic diseases in India needs to be rethought. More space and responsibility should be given to the primary care level, and relatively less to the more specialised hospital level. Furthermore, doctors should consider delegating some of their tasks to other staff in the first-line health facility to significantly reduce their workload and increase time available for communication. The health information system needs to be adapted to better ensure continuity of care and support self-management by patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number44
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2019


  • care
  • challenges
  • chronic care
  • diabetes
  • health services
  • health-care
  • hypertension
  • lmic
  • organisation
  • primary care
  • systems
  • Hypertension
  • Organisation
  • Health services
  • Primary care
  • Care
  • Chronic care
  • Challenges
  • LMIC
  • Diabetes

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