Objective: To quantify the socio-economic impact of tuberculosis on patients and their families from the costs incurred by patients in rural and urban areas.
Design: An interview schedule prepared from 17 focus group discussions was used to collect socio-economic demographic characteristics, employment, income particulars, expenditure on illness and effects on children from newly detected sputum-positive pulmonary tuberculosis patients. The direct and indirect costs included money spent on diagnosis, drugs, investigations, travel and loss of wages. Total costs were projected for the entire 6 months of treatment.
Results: The study population consisted of 304 patients (government health care 202, non governmental organisation 77, private practitioner 25), 120 of whom were females. Mean direct cost was Rs.2052/-, indirect Rs.3934/-, and total cost was Rs.5986/- ($171 US). The mean number of work days lost was 83 and mean debts totalled Rs.2079/-. Both rural and urban female patients faced rejection by their families (15%). Eleven per cent of schoolchildren discontinued their studies; an additional 8% took up employment to support their family.
Conclusions: The total costs, and particularly indirect costs due to TB, were relatively high. The average period of loss of wages was 3 months. Care giving activities of female patients decreased significantly, and a fifth of schoolchildren discontinued their studies.