[Answered] Highlight the health and healthcare issues faced by Tribals in India. Also, suggest some measures to improve their health status.

Introduction: Contextual introduction.
Body: Write some health and healthcare issues faced by Tribals in India. Also, write some measures to improve their health status.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

Tribal people constitute 8.6% of India’s population, the second largest in any country in the world. Tribal population suffers triple burden of disease; namely, communicable diseases, non-communicable diseases, malnutrition, mental health, complicated by poor health seeking behaviour. These issues have persisted as there is no separate data on tribal people’s health or healthcare or on the money spent.

Healthcare issues faced by Tribals:

  • Child malnutrition is 50% higher in tribal children: 42% compared to 28% in others.
  • Malaria and tuberculosis are three to 11 times more common among the tribal people. The half of the total malaria deaths in India occur among them.
  • The non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, and, mental health problems such as depression and addiction leading to cancer and suicide, are increasing.
  • Tribal people heavily depend on government-run public health care institutions, such as primary health centres, but there is a huge deficit in the number of such facilities, and medical doctors in tribal areas.
  • Government health care for the tribal people is starved of funds as well as of human resource.
  • The gap is not only to the availability of modern and quality healthcare but also to develop behaviour change model to motivate them to use quality Indian system of medicine with allopathic treatment.

Measures to improve their health status:

  • Launch a National Tribal Health Action Plan with a goal to bring the status of health and healthcare at par with the respective State averages in the next 10 years.
  • The comprehensive measures should be taken to address the priority health problems, the health care gap, the human resource gap and the governance problems.
  • There should be allocation of additional money so that the per capita government health expenditure on tribal people becomes equal to the stated goal of the National Health Policy (2017), i.e. 2.5% of the per capita GDP.
  • States should act swiftly to assess the needs, priorities of their own tribal population and set goals, targets to achieve the same through proven public health strategies.
  • Mere establishment of more health facilities cannot overcome this problem and so the role of trained manpower to deliver quality healthcare, including traditional healers, local people is necessary.

The tribal healthcare system needs more substantive solutions. We need to move from symbolic gestures to substantive promises, from promises to a comprehensive action plan, and from an action plan to realising the goal of a healthy tribal people.

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