Resolving the Tribal health challenge - India@100
Thu, 25 May 2023

Resolving the Tribal health challenge - India@100

Context: India has made remarkable strides in various social, economic and political paradigms since independence. Looking forward, there is a need to create a resilient, accessible and affordable healthcare system which caters to the most vulnerable societies like tribal communities in India which constitute 8.9 % of the population.

India’s Growth story since Independence:

  • Since Independence, India has made remarkable progress. It has emerged as the world’s fifth-largest economy and a leader in the digital realm.
  • India, at various points, has demonstrated the ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — One World, One Family. One example is India’s contribution towards the global vaccination drive during the pandemic.
  • Launch of PM Jan Arogya Yajna and Ayushman Mission, world’s largest insurance scheme catering to more than 50 crore people.
  • National Health Mission (NHM) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme which envisages achievement of universal access to equitable, affordable & quality health care services.
  • Under “Vaccine Maitri”, India provided over 60 million vaccine doses to neighbouring countries and other parts of the world.

Healthcare Challenges faced by Tribal Communities in India:

  • Accessibility to the healthcare system: Lack of equitable, affordable and quality healthcare for tribal masses.
  • Poor health infrastructure: In around half of the states where tribals reside, healthcare institutions are under equipped and understaffed with poor doctor to patient ratio.
  • High Mortality rates: As per a report by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the mortality rate in tribal areas is 44% higher than the national average, and infant mortality is 63% higher.
  • Disease burden: Health problems prevalent in tribal areas include endemic infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhoeal diseases, apart from malnutrition and anaemia.
  • Women health: Several studies on maternal health show poorer nutritional status, higher levels of morbidity and mortality, and lower utilisation of antenatal and postnatal services among tribals.

Measures to build an inclusive healthcare system for tribal communities:

  • Empowering tribal communities: Tribal communities need to be empowered strategically, keeping in mind their traditions and other intangible heritage touch points.
  • Affordable and accessible healthcare: Promoting suitable investments along with revamped public policy and governance measures, healthcare facilities could be made affordable and accessible to all.
  • Unique approach: Since the tribals have a more communitarian social setup, an underdeveloped economy dependent on forest resources and unique geographic conditions, their health outcomes necessitate a unique approach.
  • Investments in medical colleges and training centres in remote areas which can equip local healthcare providers with the necessary skills and knowledge to offer quality healthcare services.
    • It can bridge the gap in healthcare infrastructure and provide employment opportunities to locals.
    • Belonging to the same region, local healthcare providers can understand the cultural sensitivities of tribal communities.
  • Public Partnerships can help in redefining healthcare facilities and accessibility. For instance, Mera Baccha Abhiyan, of Datia, Madhya Pradesh aims to fight malnutrition through public participation. The outcomes of this scheme have been impressive with a fall in malnutrition, increase in immunisation and breastfeeding practices.


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