Healthcare Sabha 2018 | Tribal Health in India – Bridging the gaps for the future
A very interesting and informative address on tribal health was delivered by Dr Abhay Bang, Director – SEARCH, Gadchiroli, who informed that knowledge is the best pill, best weapon to empower tribal population. He illustrated various issues pertaining to tribal health and ways to address it.
“Though the health status of tribal population has improved over the years, it continues to be among the worst in comparison with other sections of the population. There is abysmally low amount of data on tribal health. It needs to be ramped up to improve the health indicators of this population,” he said.
Bang also briefed the audience that there are ‘black holes,’ when it comes to funding for tribal areas.
He said, “The allocated funds under existing Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) guidelines put in place by the Planning Commission, mandates that each state should spend a stipulated amount on tribal population. But many states do not spend the allocated amount.”
Noting that tribal population suffers from major disease burdens he informed that the economic burden due to poor public health is around ` 6000 crores.
“Deficit in health infrastructure adversely affects tribal health. Moreover, functional deficit and lack of adequate human resources to serve this population worsens the situation,” he said.
He further touched upon few other aspects on having at least one ASHA worker for 50 households and their payment should be 50 per cent fixed and other 50 per cent performance oriented. He also insisted that each tribal community should have health volunteers and Grama Sabha should be involved in health related activities.
Highlighting about the Primary Health Centres (PHC), Bang informed that tribal communities does not want additional PHCs but they want the existing ones to be functional.
“A stationery health centre model is inappropriate for tribal areas to reach out to the villages that are far. Each PHC should have atleast two mobile medical units. So each tribal village gets a medical unit visiting them once a month,” he added.
He also added that to galvanise tribal healthcare, a cadre called Tribal Health Officers (THO) needs to be created.
In conclusion, he stated that more data, sufficient political representation, better governance, adequate funding and financing mechanisms, ramping up the pool of human resources, are ways to improve tribal health.
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