India@75, Looking at 100: How we can resolve the tribal health challenge

Source– The post is based on the article “India@75, Looking at 100: How we can resolve the tribal health challenge” published in “The Indian Express” on 23rd May 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Issues related to development and management of health

Relevance- Inclusive healthcare system

News– The article explains the issues of access of healthcare system for tribal communities

What are the achievements of India in the healthcare sector?

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.

Under “Vaccine Maitri”, India provided over 60 million vaccine doses to neighbouring countries and other parts of the world.

What are challenges faced in the healthcare sector?

The challenge lies in building a healthcare system that caters to all communities.

For instance, tribal communities in India constitute 8.9% of the population. They remain the most neglected and deprived group in access to healthcare.

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. This underlines the urgent need to empower tribal communities and ensure they receive equitable healthcare access.

The challenges they face are multifaceted — lack of infrastructure, medical professionals, connectivity, affordability, equipment, insurance, funding, and much more.

How can India build an inclusive healthcare system for tribal communities?

There is a need for suitable investments, public policy and governance, for making healthcare affordable and accessible to all.

Empowering tribal communities must be done strategically, keeping in mind their traditions and other intangible heritage touchpoints.

The health of communities is influenced by various factors. These factors differ significantly for tribal communities.

They have a communitarian social setup, an underdeveloped economy dependent on forest resources and unique geographic conditions. As a result, their health outcomes necessitate a unique approach.

A long-term solution to the tribal healthcare challenge is investing in medical colleges and training centres across such remote areas.

These institutions can equip local healthcare providers with the necessary skills and knowledge to offer quality healthcare services. It has the potential to bridge the gap in healthcare infrastructure and provide employment opportunities for the local population.

The capabilities of public partnerships in redefining healthcare facilities and accessibility are important. Recently, NITI Aayog and UNDP highlighted initiatives that are sustainable, innovative, impactful and replicable.

One such initiative is the Mera Baccha Abhiyan. It aims to fight malnutrition through public participation in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh. As a result, the malnutrition rate in the district dropped by 17.5%.

The responsibility of providing healthcare for all our fellow citizens, lies both with private and government institutions. Through inclusive leadership and investments in healthcare infrastructure in tribal areas, India can empower tribal communities.

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