Situating Standards in Practices: Multi Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Treatment in India

N. Engel*, R. Zeiss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Public health care needs to cope with a basic dilemma between providing standardized care within public programmes across entire and at times resource-constrained countries and adapting this care locally when responding to individual needs. This tension between standardization and local adaptation becomes particularly obvious for the prolonged and complicated treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Situated standardization, as introduced by Zuiderent-Jerak [2007a, 2007b] offers a way out of this dilemma. It helps to focus on how standards need to be situated in practice rather than viewing standardization and local adaptation as mutually exclusive practices. How do actors relate standardization and individual care in their practices of treating MDR-TB? Results from qualitative fieldwork at the first MDR-TB treatment sites of the Indian TB programme show that actors situate standards in a particular way. They assess the role of guidelines in a particular situation and on that basis recognize the core recommendations of guidelines or go beyond the guidelines. This allows actors to negotiate how standards should be situated and reconciles the dilemma between local adaptation and standardization. Having guidelines internalized, as is common for Indian TB control, bears both promises and pitfalls for engaging in standardization processes in a situated manner. The results contribute to science and technology study scholarship on guideline development. They highlight how actors coordinate the situating of standards and how this depends upon cultures of control. This illustrates the potential of qualitative studies on local adaptation for guideline developers by revealing existing practices of relating and negotiating local adaptation and standardization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-225
Number of pages25
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2014


  • standardization
  • local adaptation
  • control
  • healthcare innovation
  • tuberculosis
  • India
  • TB

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