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Glob Health Action. 2018;11(1):1438840. doi: 10.1080/16549716.2018.1438840.

Non-communicable diseases in Indian slums: re-framing the Social Determinants of Health.

Author information

a ILAW , Barangay Maybunga 1607, Pasig City, Philippines.
b Athena Institute, Faculty of Science , Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
c Le Centre de Recherche Inserm, University of Bordeaux Segalen , 33000 Bordeaux, France.
d Dutch Heart Foundation , 2496 XD Den Haag , The Netherlands .



The epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in slums has pushed its residents to heightened vulnerability. The Social Determinants of Health (SDH) framework has been used to understand the social dynamics and impact of NCDs, especially in poorly resourced communities. Whilst the SDH has helped to discredit the characterisation of NCDs as diseases of affluence, its impact on policy has been less definite. Given the multitude of factors that interact in the presentation of NCDs, operationalising the SDH for policies and programmes that account for the contextual complexity of slums has stalled.


To organise the complex networks of relations between SDH in slums so as to identify options for Indian municipal policy that are feasible to implement in the short term.


The study reviews the literature describing SDH in Indian slums, specifically those that establish causal relations between SDH and NCDs. Root cause analysis was then used to organise the identified relations of SDH and NCDs.


Although poverty remains the largest structural determinant of health in slums, the multi-dimensional relations between SDH and NCDs are structured around four themes that describe the dynamics of slums, namely scarce clean water, low education, physical (in)activity and transportation. From the reviewed literature, four logic trees visualising the relations between SDH in slums and NCDs were constructed. The logic trees separate symptomatic problems from their more distal causes, and recommendations were formulated based on features of these relationships that are amenable to policy intervention.


Root cause analysis provides a means to focus the lens of examination of SDH, as evidenced here for Indian slums. It provides a guide for the development of policies that are grounded in the actual health concerns of people in slums, and takes account of the complex pathways through which diseases are socially constituted.


Informal settlements; chronic illnesses; root cause analysis; slum health

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