Asia Health Policy Program working paper # 61
January 14, 2021
Background. People with chronic conditions are disproportionately prone to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but there are limited data documenting this. We aimed to assess the health, psychosocial and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people with chronic conditions in India.
Methods. Between July 29, to September 12, 2020, we telephonically surveyed adults (n=2335) with chronic conditions across four sites in India. Data on participants’ demographic, socio-economic status, comorbidities, access to health care, treatment satisfaction, self-care behaviors, employment, and income were collected using pre-tested questionnaires. We performed multivariable logistic regression analysis to examine the correlates of difficulty in accessing medicines and worsening of diabetes or
hypertension symptoms. Further, a diverse sample of 40 participants completed qualitative interviews that focused on eliciting patient’s experiences during the COVID-19 lockdowns and data analysed using thematic analysis.
Findings. 1,734 individuals completed the survey (response rate=74%). The mean (SD) age of respondents was 57·8 years (11·3) and 50% were men. During the COVID-19 lockdowns in India, 83% of participants reported difficulty in accessing healthcare, 17% faced difficulties in accessing medicines, 59% reported loss of income, 38% lost jobs, and 28% reduced fruit and vegetable consumption. In the final-adjusted regression model, rural residence (OR, 95%CI: 4·01,2·90-5·53), having diabetes (2·42, 1·81-3·25) and hypertension (1·70,1·27-2·27), and loss of income (2·30,1·62-3·26) were significantly associated with difficulty in accessing medicines. Further, difficulties in accessing medicines (3·67,2·52-5·35), and job loss (1·90,1·25-2·89) were associated with worsening of diabetes or hypertension symptoms. Qualitative data suggest most participants experienced psychosocial distress due to loss of job or income and had difficulties in accessing in-patient services.
Interpretation. People with chronic conditions, particularly among poor, rural, and marginalized populations, have experienced difficulties in accessing healthcare and been severely affected both socially and financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.