Exploring Maternal and Child Health Among Tribal Communities in India: A Life Course Perspective

  •  Minal Madankar    
  •  Narendra Kakade    
  •  Lohitha Basa    
  •  Bushra Sabri    


India experiences high rates of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, with tribal communities disproportionately affected. Tribal populations frequently live in unfavorable socio-economic conditions and deficient social health indicators, culminating in adverse health consequences. Using a life course perspective, this qualitative study explored risks over the life course that contribute to maternal and child health problems among tribal populations in India. Additionally, the study examined barriers to utilization of healthcare services during the pregnancy and postpartum periods. Data collection occurred between 2018 and 2019 through participant observation, key informant interviews (n = 7) and in-depth interviews (n = 68) and a focus group (n = 7) with tribal women from the Madia-Gond tribe in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Additionally, verbal autopsies were conducted with relatives of three deceased women and five infants from the tribe. Multiple risk factors operating at different socio-ecological levels and developmental stages of life were associated with maternal and child health problems among the tribe. These included adherence to traditional harmful practices, limited access to nutritional diet, women's health neglected due to the double burden of domestic and professional labor, and a lack of accessible and well-equipped medical facilities. Inaccesibility stemmed from factors including extreme poverty, geographical isolation, and suboptimal healthcare infrastructure. There is need for provisions to promote access to care and to promote education and awareness centered on evidence-supported healthcare, particularly targeted towards expectant mothers. The implementation of nutritional support programs may help mitigate high maternal and child mortality and morbidity rates prevalent among tribal populations.

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