BMJ Open 3:e002251 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002251
  • Public health
    • Research

The high cost of diarrhoeal illness for urban slum households–a cost-recovery approach: a cohort study

  1. Anita Patil-Deshmuk3
  1. 1Departments of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Partners for Urban Knowledge Action and Research, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ronak B Patel; rbpatel1{at}
  • Received 22 October 2012
  • Revised 11 February 2013
  • Accepted 7 March 2013
  • Published 3 April 2013


Objectives Rapid urbanisation has often meant that public infrastructure has not kept pace with growth leading to urban slums with poor access to water and sanitation and high rates of diarrhoea with greater household costs due to illness. This study sought to determine the monetary cost of diarrhoea to urban slum households in Kaula Bandar slum in Mumbai, India. The study also tested the hypotheses that the cost of water and sanitation infrastructure may be surpassed by the cumulative costs of diarrhoea for households in an urban slum community.

Design A cohort study using a baseline survey of a random sample followed by a systematic longitudinal household survey. The baseline survey was administered to a random sample of households. The systematic longitudinal survey was administered to every available household in the community with a case of diarrhoea for a period of 5 weeks.

Participants Every household in Kaula Bandar was approached for the longitudinal survey and all available and consenting adults were included.

Results The direct cost of medical care for having at least one person in the household with diarrhoea was 205 rupees. Other direct costs brought total expenses to 291 rupees. Adding an average loss of 55 rupees per household from lost wages and monetising lost productivity from homemakers gave a total loss of 409 rupees per household. During the 5-week study period, this community lost an estimated 163 600 rupees or 3635 US dollars due to diarrhoeal illness.

Conclusions The lack of basic water and sanitation infrastructure is expensive for urban slum households in this community. Financing approaches that transfer that cost to infrastructure development to prevent illness may be feasible. These findings along with the myriad of unmeasured benefits of preventing diarrhoeal illness add to pressing arguments for investment in basic water and sanitation infrastructure.

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