Real Medicine Foundation is collaborating with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Health Systems Studies, to undertake a unique study looking into the perceptions of patients who are using Ayurveda, Yoga, or Naturopathy therapy for chronic type II diabetes.

Why is Real Medicine embarking on this endeavor?

Firstly, it is clearly in line with RMF’s goal of approaching the patient as a whole, understanding the reasons and solutions behind good health, even if not necessarily conventional.  Secondly, at a more global level, the role of traditional, alternative and complementary systems of medicine is becoming more visible in the health systems of both high- and low-income countries[i].  India has been at the forefront of this trend due to its long history and heritage with alternative systems of medicine.  India’s formal policies and systems in place for integrated medicine with such government groups as the Department of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Homoeopathy) harness the strengths of all medical approaches with the goal of serving the patient with the best possible remedy option. [ii]

The reality is, however, that the practical operationalization of these visionary policies have been difficult.  One of the reasons for this is the lack of understanding about why patients consult traditional and alternative medicine practitioners and which patient profiles address which practitioners.  Our project aims to bridge this gap by conducting qualitative interviews with diabetic patients seeking Ayurvedic or Yoga & Naturopathy treatment with a semi-structured questionnaire enquiring into the motives and rationale behind seeking such a therapy, as opposed to allopathic treatment.

Project Goals

Most investigations into traditional forms of medicine tend to focus on efficacy and outcome according to the biomedical model of health.  In this study, we aim to go in-depth into a wholly different but equally critical aspect of traditional medicine, namely why patients choose to take alternative treatments in the first place, taking into consideration the widely-held belief that the biomedical model and its treatment options are the only, or best, possibility.

India is an ideal setting for this type of study because traditional forms of medicine such as Ayurveda and Yoga & Naturopathy enjoy countrywide availability and affordability[iii].  The Indian population thus regularly seeks traditional medicine treatment but little actual survey or tracking data exists as to why and for which conditions.  This project is conceived to move beyond anecdotal sources of information to better comprehend patient perceptions of Ayurveda and Yoga & Naturopathy and gain insight into how these underlying perceptions influence usage of these forms of medicine.

The project is designed as a qualitative study based on interviews with 30-50 chronic disease patients in Karnataka and Kerala.  10-15 patients each from Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy treatment centers will be interviewed and the qualitative data analyzed.

Interviews are set to commence in the fall and we will be updating this blog on our progress!

[i] Page 1, WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005 (

[ii] National Policy on Indian Systems of Medicine & Homoeopathy, 2002

[iii] Page 30, WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2002-2005(

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