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Editorials

The health status of indigenous peoples and others

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7412.404 (Published 21 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:404

Rapid Response:

Unhealthy attitude of ‘healthy people’ towards health of Indigenous people

Sir,

Health of Indian tribal people represents one of the examples of
shear neglect and utter ignorance. These are among the poorest, most
illiterate and underprivileged people of the world. They suffer from
untold morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, there are no published
reports of their health concerns and other epidemiological details.

Having lived in a tribal area for over two decades, I am aware of
this harsh reality that these people are remembered only when their
political representatives need votes. Else, they are left on their own to
struggle and die. Most of the people, whom I know have rarely sought
allopathic treatment. Most go to "charitable" dispensaries opened by some
magnanimous people. This is because, they dispense them medicines without
charge.

The fact that medical education in India is getting increasingly
technical has adverse effects on health of indigenous people. Medical
doctors over here want postgraduate seats first, rather than serving
people. The forceful requirement that doctors here should serve
underprivileged people for 5 years has been a fiasco. Even the proposal
like "serve in the underprivileged and get reservation in
postgraduatation" has met dismal successes.

Proposal by Ian and Brown1 is unlikely to be successful in India.
This is because, most such people are illiterates and those who among them
are educated, consider them no less than animals. New risks and diseases
such HIV\AIDS are emerging in this population now. This class exports
their children for labour and young girls for trade. Unfortunately, the
message of prevention has not reached up to them. In Andhra Pradesh and
Tamilnadu; the states hit the hardest, have started some ‘preventive
messages’ in local languages, but this remains restricted to some villages
only. No reach of mass media, language barrier and the scale of problem
remain few of the many problems in ensuring delivery of health care in
this population

1. Ian Ring and Ngiare Brown. The health status of indigenous peoples
and others
BMJ 2003; 327: 404-405

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

04 October 2003
Dr. Vikas Dhikav Dhikav
Resident
All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New delhi-110029, INDIA