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Migration and health-care access: Barriers to access government health services by migrant tribal community living in an eastern Indian city

Suchismita Mishra, Yadlapalli S Kusuma, Bontha V Babu.


Background: Internal migrants and tribal populations are vulnerable in India. Migrant tribal communities in urban areas, due to doubled vulnerability, are at the risk of low health-care access.

Objective: To appraise the extent of, and barriers to, accessing government health care by tribal migrants in an eastern Indian city.

Materials and Methods: This study, undertaken in slums of Bhubaneswar, a city in eastern India, adopted a mixed-method approach with quantitative data from mothers of children aged 0–14 years (n = 175) and qualitative data from community members (n = 50) and key informants (n = 26).

Results: A majority of participants (82%) did not visit any government health facility during the past year. Barriers to access government health-care facilities are related to both the health system and the community. Distance and lack of knowledge regarding the location of government health facilities and lack of trust in the government services are responsible for low use. Some cultural perceptions such as perceived etiology of illness and faith in traditional healers contribute toward low health-care access.

Conclusion: The study emphasizes the need to consider the cultural beliefs and practices of people while planning health programs for tribal migrant communities, in addition to addressing the health system-related issues to improve the services.

Key words: Migration, tribal, urban slums, poverty, access, barriers

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