An exploration into the determinants of noncommunicable diseases among rural-to-urban migrants in periurban South Africa

21 Dec 2011

Introduction Noncommunicable diseases are increasing in developing countries, exacerbated by growing urbanization. We examined the experiences and perceptions about noncommunicable diseases of people who migrated from rural areas to urban Cape Town, South Africa. Methods We conducted a qualitative study in an impoverished periurban township that has a noncommunicable disease prevention program, including health clubs. We used in-depth interviews, participatory reflection and action groups, and focus group discussions. Results Participants described changes in eating patterns and levels of physical activity. These changes were a result of socioeconomic and environmental constraints. However, respondents were not concerned about these changes. Despite hardships, they were pleased with their urban lifestyle. Furthermore, they approved of their weight gain because it signified dignity and respect. Participants who attended health clubs found them informative and socially and emotionally supportive. Conclusion The study highlighted the complexity of the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases and the need to develop prevention strategies that extend beyond the traditional focus on diet and exercise.