A cross-cultural investigation of the conceptualisation of frailty in northern Tanzania

Lewis, Emma G., Rogathi, Jane, Kissima, John, Breckons, Matthew, Lee, Richard and Urasa, Sarah (2021) A cross-cultural investigation of the conceptualisation of frailty in northern Tanzania. Ageing & Society. pp. 1-34. ISSN 0144-686X (In Press)

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X21000520


Frailty prevalence is higher in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) compared with high-income countries when measured by biomedical frailty models, the most widely used being the frailty phenotype. Frailty in older people is becoming of global public health interest as a means of promoting health in old age in LMICs. As yet, little work has been done to establish to what extent the concept of frailty, as conceived according to 'western' biomedicine, has cross-cultural resonance for a low-income rural African setting. This study aimed to investigate the meaning of frailty contextually, using the biomedical concept of the frailty phenotype as a framework. Qualitative interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of older adults, their care-givers and community representatives in rural northern Tanzania. Thirty interview transcripts were transcribed, translated from Kiswahili to English and thematically analysed. Results reveal that despite superficial similarities in the understanding of frailty, to a great extent the physical changes highlighted by the frailty phenotype were naturalised, except when these were felt to be due to a scarcity of resources. Frailty was conceptualised as less of a physical problem of the individual, but rather, as a social problem of the community, suggesting that the frailty construct may be usefully applied cross-culturally when taking a social equity focus to the health of older people in LMICs.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: This work was supported by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (EGL, Teaching and Research Fellow grant).
Uncontrolled Keywords: ageing, frailty, global health, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), sub-Saharan Africa
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
C800 Psychology
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 07:53
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2021 15:00
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/47113

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