Approaches towards health care among Indian tribes : Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care

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Approaches towards health care among Indian tribes

Pauljoseph, Angeline Hephzibah; Kengadaran, Shivashankar; Anusha, Divvi

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Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care 12(2):p 410-411, February 2023. | DOI: 10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_1538_22
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Tribes are ethnic groups that account for up to 8.6% of the Indian population. They reside in economically and socially depressed areas of both rural and urban India with limited access to health care. They also suffer from heavy burden of disease compared to other people. Some tribal communities still follow traditional healing practices that are not supported by our healthcare system.[1,2]

Many tribal communities still follow supernatural theory of disease and believe that illness is caused by a curse from God or spirits and can be cured by appeasing with offerings. A group of tribes known as the Santals completely rely on traditional healers for their cure. They also believe that any violation of natural laws and contact with sick person’s belongings can lead to disease or illness.[2] On a broader note, they believe in protective spirits who always protect them; benevolent spirits who are worshipped on a regular basis by the community and family; malevolent spirits—the evil spirits in charge of smallpox, fever, abortion and so on; and ancestral spirits, the spirits of the ancestors who always protect them.[3]

Poor socioeconomic conditions and improper health beliefs contribute more to their sufferings. While studies have shown increased prevalence of addiction among tribal men, lack of maternal health care poses a serious threat among tribal women. Few studies have shown that some tribal women restrict food consumption from the second trimester of pregnancy to facilitate an easy delivery. Unhygienic self-delivery practices and less intake of nourished food during pregnancy lead to increased maternal mortality and morbidity rate among tribal women. These practices further lead to birth of malnourished and underdeveloped children, thus forming a vicious cycle.[3,4]

Since the tribal population has a low level of health literacy, educating them will have a significant impact on how often they use the tribal health and wellness centre. The disease burden can be reduced by providing proper health education through accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers and raising awareness regarding various tribal health welfare programmes like Matrutva Anudan Yojana and others. By making it mandatory for doctors to serve in tribal communities for at least 2 months during their internship, the doctor–patient ratio among tribal communities could be reduced. Extending the coverage of central government insurance scheme to all tribal communities across India and stringent implementation and monitoring of healthcare programme may further improve their quality of life.[5]

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


The authors thanks all the participants for their contribution toward this paper.


1. Taraphdar P, Vasudeva A, Sheikh NA, Bharti A, Chanu AR, Yadav SL, et al. Understanding health care seeking behavior in a tribal setting in West Bengal. J Family Med Prim Care 2022;11:1443.
2. Negi DP, Singh MM. Tribal health and health care beliefs in India:A systematic. International J Res Soc Sci 2018;81.
3. Islary J. Health and health seeking behaviour among tribal communities in India:A socio-cultural perspective. J Tribal Intellect Collective India 2014;2:1–6.
4. Government of India. Report of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health. Tribal Health in India, Bridging the Gap and a Roadmap for the Future. Available from
5. Balarajan Y, Selvaraj S, Subramanian SV. Health care and equity in India. The Lancet 2011;377:505–15.
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