Centre for Health and Social Sciences

Research


The Centre’s research is interdisciplinary in nature and aimed at analyzing health inequalities and inequities within society and identifying the social drivers and contextual factors and processes producing such disparities. The Centre’s thrust is on applying the lens of gender, class, caste, and locality (rural/urban) to understand issues of vulnerability, marginalization, inequity and inequality that affect and impact people's ability to have good health, and access and utilize health services.

The Centre’s strength is the combination of both qualitative and quantitative research expertise of its faculty. Faculty employ qualitative and quantitative approaches singularly and in combination (mixed methods research) yielding rich data sets. The Centre’s faculty also have expertise in social and psychological measurement techniques and tools, the designing of survey instruments, advanced statistical techniques and health research ethics.

Research Themes:

HIV/AIDS: The Centre has prioritized research on HIV and AIDS over a decade. HIV/AIDS related stigmas are a major barrier to HIV prevention efforts and an impediment to mitigating its impact on individuals and communities. The Centre in its early years focused on research regarding HIV related stigmas and discrimination among people living with HIV, as well as on research pertaining to other vulnerable populations such as MSM and FSWs. The Centre has also conducted research on other dimensions of HIV/AIDS, namely migration and HIV related risk and vulnerability, HIV/AIDS related stigmas, and determinants of risk for HIV. It has also documented programmatic learnings and conducted peer treatment education approaches for ART. The Centre undertakes research on under-researched areas like male circumcision and related issues.

Gender and Health: Gender norms, roles, values and relations can influence health outcomes and affect the attainment of mental, physical and social health and well-being. Gender inequality limits access to quality health services and contributes to avoidable morbidity and mortality in women and men throughout the life-course. Gender equality in health means that women and men, across the life-course and in all their diversity, have the same conditions and opportunities to realize their full rights and potential to be healthy, contribute to health development and benefit from the results. Achieving gender equality in health often requires specific measures to mitigate barriers.

The Centre thus employs a gender lens in its health research. Specific focal themes for which a gender lens is used include infertility, sex ratio analyses, women’s work and health, gender and health access and equity issues, menstrual hygiene, unwanted pregnancies, body image and health issues of people who do not fit into binary male or female sex categories.

Adolescents and Youth: Adolescents and young people are increasingly the focus of policy makers in India today given the fact that every third person in the country is a “young person” aged between 10 and 24 years. India has a unique opportunity to ensure a brighter future by taking advantage of this demographic dividend. However, adolescent and youth health in India remains vastly understudied. Health programmes tend to focus on children, women and the elderly, leaving this vast segment of the population without adequate services that cater to their needs.

The Centre has recognized this need and is taking up research in adolescent and youth health issues. Specific research areas include body image, food choices, eating disorders and nutrition knowledge, tobacco consumption, sexual and reproductive health, mental health and co-morbidities. Various disciplines, including demography and psychology, inform the work done in these areas. As a specific contribution under this theme, faculty from the Centre are involved in the establishment and ongoing work of the UNFPA supported Centre for Excellence in Adolescence and Youth.

Various disciplines, including demography and psychology, inform the work done in these areas. As a specific contribution under this theme, faculty from the Centre are involved in the establishment and ongoing work of the UNFPA supported Centre for Excellence in Adolescence and Youth.

Migration, Urbanization and Health: South Asian nations are urbanizing rapidly; between 2001 and 2011, the urban population in South Asia increased by 130 million from 382 to 511 million. Projections indicate that the region’s urban population will further increase by another 250 million by 2030. Such rapid increase in the near future, while conducive for the economic growth of nations, poses serious challenges for liveability in urban areas. India accounts for 74 percent of the region’s urban population (377 million) constituting 31.2 percent of its total population. The urban population is expected to increase to about 600 million by 2031. The fact that rural to urban migration accounts for more than one fifth of this growth points to the potential challenges the nation will face in providing quality employment, ensuring adequate living conditions, and making available good health services to this growing population. While migration is a major contributor to population growth in urban areas, it is inadequately studied.

The Centre has therefore increasingly invested its research efforts in enhancing the existing knowledge base on the health effects of migration and urbanization in the country and in the South Asia region. Specific sub areas include: migration and HIV vulnerability; migration and women’s health; mental health consequences of migration; migration and access to health services; and migration and resilience.

The Centre also has a special focus on urban health challenges. While health indicators for urban areas indicate a better health situation as compared to rural areas, considerable inter and intra urban differences mask the inequalities in health. Also, urban health challenges are compounded by substantial migration. The Centre carries out research on areas such as urban living conditions and health, access to health care in urban areas, NCDs in urban areas, urban health governance, TB and urban health, emerging infectious diseases in urban areas, and peri-urban health.

TB Research and Intervention Programme: Globally, ‘Mycobacterium Tuberculosis’ is one of the leading public health concerns and India accounts for a disproportionately large share of the world's tuberculosis (TB) cases. In fact, one in every fourth Multidrug Resistant (MDR-TB) case is in India. TB kills an estimated 480,000 Indians every year and more than 1,400 every day. Due to the difficult treatment required for MDR-TB, ensuring adherence can be a significant challenge. Patients encounter both side effects and several psychosocial factors which often makes it difficult for them to adhere to treatment. The Centre’s faculty is engaged in designing and implementing a psychosocial counseling programme for MDR TB patients in four Indian states as well as for TB research.

Capacity Building: Strengthening research capacity is an important element in advancing health and development in a society. The Centre plays a major role in capacity building of health researchers at various levels given its unique strength in both qualitative and quantitative research. The Centre’s commitment to creating a next generation of researchers in health is executed in partnership with leading international NGOs like the Population Council by organizing scientific writing workshops for research staff working in AIDS related NGOs and CBOs so as to help them with documentation and analysis that leads to journal publications. Faculty in partnership with other institutions organize training in qualitative research in health and related themes for mid-level researchers in university departments and the voluntary sector.

Some of the areas in which the Centre provides capacity building are: health and human rights; health, ethics and social science research; qualitative research; mixed methods for health research; and scale construction.