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India@100: Resolving the tribal health challenge

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health


Source: IE

 Context: As India celebrates its achievements, it must build a healthcare system that caters to tribal communities.


Since independence, India has made remarkable strides:

  • As the world’s 5th-largest economy and a leader in the digital realm.
  • Demonstrating the ethos of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – One World, One Family.
    • For example, through its Vaccine Maitri initiative, India provided over 60 million vaccine doses to nations across the world.



  • Equitable, affordable and quality healthcare for 4 billion people.
  • Finding a way to achieve this without disrupting the identities of tribals.


Healthcare issues faced by  Tribal communities in India:

  • They constitute 9% of the population and remain the most neglected and deprived group when it comes to access to healthcare.
  • For example, the mortality rate in tribal areas is 44% higher than the national average, and infant mortality is 63% higher [Ministry of Tribal Affairs].


Reasons behind poor health indicators among tribals: They face multifaceted challenges – lack of infrastructure, medical professionals, connectivity, affordability, equipment, insurance, funding, etc.


Health schemes in tribal areas:

  • The National Health Mission (NHM): It envisages the achievement of universal access to equitable, affordable and quality healthcare services that are accountable and responsive to people’s needs.
  • Various initiatives supported under the NHM for better healthcare in tribal areas:
    • Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) are established as part of the Ayushman Bharat programme.
    • National Free Drugs Service Initiative and National Free Diagnostic Service Initiative have been rolled out.
    • The ASHA programme provides for recruitment of ASHA at habitation level, in hilly, tribal and difficult areas.
    • National Ambulances Services under NHM for free transportation of sick patients to the health facilities.
    • All tribal majority districts whose composite health index is below the State average have been identified as High Priority Districts (HPDs)


Way ahead:

  • Urgent need to empower tribal communities and ensure they receive equitable, affordable and accessible healthcare.
    • This can be ensured by suitable investments (in medical colleges and training centres across such remote areas), public policy and governance.
  • Empowering tribal communities must be done strategically.
    • With a more communitarian social setup, an underdeveloped economy dependent on forest resources and unique geographic conditions, their health outcomes necessitate a unique approach.


Best practices:

  • Mera Baccha Abhiyan:
    • It aims to fight malnutrition through public participation in Datia district, Madhya Pradesh.
    • As a result, the district witnessed a drop in malnutrition rates (by 17.5%), rise in immunisation, breastfeeding and a drop in diarrhoea.
  • Piramal Swasthya – One of the largest implementing agencies of primary healthcare programmes in India:
    • It has over a decade’s experience of working with the tribal communities of Andhra Pradesh, implementing its unique community-based model.
    • More recently, it has partnered with NITI Aayog to transform the health and nutrition systems in 25 Aspirational Districts spread across 7 States of India.



  • As India moves towards India@100, the responsibility of providing healthcare (a fundamental human right) for all lies both with private and government institutions.
  • Tribal communities can be empowered by inclusive leadership and investments in healthcare infrastructure, contributing to the UN SDGs.


Insta Links:

Launch a national tribal health mission