Jaga and Reshma live in an upper middle class neighbourhood of Cooke town in Bangalore with their 2 boys and 2 dogs. Jaga is a stay at home dad and Reshma develops training programs for companies such as IBM. We chatted to them at home about looking after their family’s health, how they take medication and how they see the role of different health care providers. Here's some highlights:
Repeat illnesses, repeat meds
In their family, the same health issues tend to crop up a few times a year - coughs, colds, tummy upsets and back pain for Jiju. Instead of going to the doctor each time, they head to the pharmacist and get the same drugs they’ve had before - repeating the prescription verbally is enough.
“When I’m sick I self medicate, go to the store and pick up my meds. I know my body, if it feels exactly the same, I’ll take the same medication.”
This is understandable, but also indicates the scale at which people in India can buy drugs based on old prescriptions, and how easy it is to take medication habitually rather than see a doctor or self limit. HMW show people that repeat illnesses are exacerbated by taking antibiotics, rather than solved by it?
Quick relief vs natural healing
“If the kids have a cough we try herbal remedies first. We try to avoid antibiotics, we don’t want them to get resistant”
“Antibiotics are the best way to deal with an illness quickly and effectively. We have a hectic family life, we can’t afford a time out. We need to kill the illness now”
Although Jaga and Reshman know on some level that it’s better not to turn to medication, and will try not to especially with the kids, the reality of their busy lives (coupled with low level understanding AB’s long term impact) means they are too tempting not to use. Whatever alternative we design or provide needs to have speed and relief at it's core.
Doctors should educate
“If i was refused a drug by a pharmacy I’d have to check which country I’m in! I am an adult, I think the pharmacy would assume that I’ve seen a doctor and I know what I’m doing”
‘We like our doctor, they take a little more time. I like to know what a medicine is for, and what it's going to do for me. We also call our doctor friend Ida to get advice whenever we're ill. We trust her"
Jaga and Reshma are lucky that their doctor takes time to explain why a medicine is being prescribed, what it will do for them and how to take it correctly. This was by no means commonplace across our research - Indian doctors often don't expect to be questioned on their decisions, and even mistakenly assume pharmacists have the time or inclination to take on the role of educating patients. The pharmacists’ assumption that people have seen doctors is also misplaced.