Diabetes in India: A Sandal Scandal
"India will have 50 million diabetics by 2010. Close to 20% of all diabetics have some form of amputation and surveys indicate that 60% of these amputations are because of wrong or no footwear" said Mr. Vijay Viswanathan, Managing Director of the MV Hospital for Diabetes. Although he was referring to unpublished data which was likely somewhat exaggerated, India is becoming the diabetes capital of the world.
During the first week of November when Diastep was launched, a new Indian sandal for low-risk diabetics to prevent foot ulcers and ultimately amputations, I happened to spend a morning at a rural diabetic foot clinic with a physical therapist.
Diwali is the Indian festival of lights where people eat copious sweets with friends and family).
Central Leather Research Institute.
Diastep should have hired a cultural anthropologist to assist in marketing and distribution because amputations and special sandals have a long history in India. I learned that earlier models of the MCR Chappals marketed for diabetics faced resistance from some local people since they were worn by people with leprosy in the past who had peripheral nerve damage and amputations. Perhaps more important than the stigma of special footwear, is the need for gradated pricing and social marketing to the lower socioeconomic classes. My colleagues who work with diabetics told me the on-the-ground reality: many elderly aren't used to wearing shoes, farmers don't like to wear them when they're wading through their fields, and most models are too costly.
Although the multidisciplinary research collaboration to create Diastep was exciting and impressive, is it simply another example of an Indian innovation that will never reach the average Indian? Time will tell if it is really a technological "feet" or a sandal scandal.
Watch a video of the launch of Diastep below set to classical music:
If you're interested in global health, cultural conundrums, social innovations, and life in India then read on!