A three-day national workshop on best practices in tribal health care was organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently in at Shodhgram, Gadchiroli, a tribal district of Maharashtra. The workshop, held to identify possible solutions to address the healthcare needs of India’s 100 million tribal population, was inaugurated by the Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research and Director General, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR).
In her inaugural address Dr. Swaminathan said, “This workshop marks an important step towards integrating evidence from the field into policy making for tribal healthcare. It also presents a unique opportunity for government departments, ICMR and voluntary agencies to share experiences and learn from each other.”
The workshop saw over 50 representatives from 24 organizations in academia, government and civil society present programs that they have been running to address problems ranging from malaria and maternal mortality to fluorosis and human resource constraints.
Selected entries included a web-based application developed by SEWA Rural, PPP model run by the Karuna Trust in Arunachal Pradesh, Malaria control strategy by MITRA in Orissa, Phulwaris for children by the Jan Swasthya Sahyog in Bilaspur, human resources outsourcing by the Government of Chhatisgarh and a weed that can assist in fluorosis management by the National Institute for Research in Tribal Health, Jabalpur. SEARCH demonstrated the Home-based Newborn Care approach including a live demonstration of how ordinary village women, trained as health workers, save newborn lives. This model has been adopted by the National Health Mission and scaled up nationally through nearly 9 lakh ASHAs.
The practices were selected from the 85 entries received by the Expert Group on Tribal Health. “These practices represent not just potential solutions for the health related problems that plague tribal communities, they also offer a ray of hope in an area that is normally seen as dark and dismal. They show us that work is being done to make healthcare accessible to tribal communities,” Dr. Abhay Bang, Chairperson of the Expert Group, said.
The Expert Group on Tribal Health was constituted jointly by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA) in October 2013 to review the existing situation of health in tribal areas, suggest interventions, formulate strategic guidelines for states and develop a national framework to improve healthcare services among the tribal population. It includes representatives from the central government, various state governments, research organizations and the civil society.
The Expert Group has conducted visits to various states to review the existing situation and has, for the first time, compiled health data for tribal people at the national level. It is expected to complete its report and recommendations by the end of this year.