NEW DELHI: A survey conducted by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 12 tribal districts of India revealed that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) were causing 66% of the deaths in these areas.
It is comparable to the proportion of deaths caused by non-communicable diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – in non-tribal districts (about 63%).
After non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases (15%) and injuries (11%) caused the highest number of deaths according to the ICMR survey. The survey was based on interviews with family members of more than 5,000 deceased Tribals and was conducted between 2015 and 2018.

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The researchers also found that the majority of tribals (70%) died at home. Officials said this reflected a lack of awareness about health issues and a severe shortage of health infrastructure in the country’s tribal districts.
According to the ICMR survey, which was published in Indian Journal of Medical Research (IJMR), Of the 5,292 families of the deceased they spoke to, 70% said their relatives died at home, 9% died while being treated at the district hospital, 5% died in a hospital private, 3% died in PHC/CHC/ Rural hospital and 2% in medical school/cancer hospital. There were about 10% of the tribals who could not remember where the death occurred and a few more (3%) who said their relative had died on their way to the health facility.
Nearly a quarter of the deceased were not being treated for their pre-existing disease, the survey revealed. The others were being treated at the district hospital (25%), private hospital (20%), PHC/CHC/rural hospital (19%), medical university/cancer hospital (9%) or local doctors/tribal healers (13%).
The ICMR survey also revealed that 29% of the deceased Tribals had a history of hypertension which is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Chronic respiratory disease/asthma was present in 17%, stroke (12%), heart disease (11%), cancer (10%) and diabetes (9%).
“It is a myth that tribal people are not as affected by NCDs, often referred to as lifestyle diseases, as non-tribals. This study establishes that. It is also clear from the findings that many people are dying at home, which could be due to reduced health-seeking behavior or the very lack of doctors or hospitals in the region. We have to work on this” Dr. Prashant Mathurthat was part of the ICMR study, he said TOI. He also highlighted the fact that with the increase in urbanization, even the tribal districts have seen a change in lifestyle and food habits.
“Refined foods are available and consumed in the tribal districts. Also, the consumption of all forms of tobacco products is quite high which is linked to a higher incidence of cancer in some of the tribal districts.” Doctor Maturadded the director of the ICMR’s National Center for Informatics and Disease Research.

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