Women with epilepsy in rural southern India often do not receive anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs) or take these drugs regularly, but little is known about how they experience the epilepsy treatment they do receive. The purpose of this study was to provide an in-depth description of the treatment experiences of women in this region who had been diagnosed with epilepsy but who do not consistently take AEDs. Focused ethnography was conducted using participant observation and in-depth interviews with six women with epilepsy, eight of their family members, and two traditional healers. The women’s treatment experiences are best described as living at the intersection of Western allopathic (“English”) medicine and traditional healing practices—approaches that could be complementary or conflicting. The women revealed a variety of perceived barriers to the use of “English” medicine. Health care professionals should appreciate the dynamic interplay of the two treatment approaches and consider all cultural, social, and economic factors that influence the women’s treatment experiences.


Epilepsy Treatment Gap, Barriers to Treatment, Treatment Decision, Indigenous Health Care, Ethnography, South India

Author Bio(s)

Jane R. von Gaudecker is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University School of Nursing. This article is the findings of her dissertation study. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jvongaud@iu.edu.

Ann Gill Taylor is Professor Emeriti at University of Virginia School of Nursing. She has been a clinical researcher for more than four decades.

Janice M. Buelow is a professor at Indiana University School of Nursing and has been an epilepsy nurse researcher for over three decades.

Sailas Benjamin is a professor and former director of research at University of Calicut, Kerala, India

Claire B, Draucker is a professor at Indiana University School of Nursing. She has used qualitative methods to build theories of healing to inform initiatives to prevent violence and develop treatment approaches for counseling survivors of violence.


University of Virginia Global Health Scholar award and the Skinner Scholarship funded this study. This publication was supported by the 5T32 NR007066 award from the National Institute of Nursing Research. Its contents are the responsibility of the authors only and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NINR or the NIH.

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