Health Ministry signs MoU with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs

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J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Shri Jual Oram, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs today presided over an MoU signing ceremony between Ministry of Health and Ministry of Tribal Affairs for working in a cooperative partnership to improve the health and well-being of students in tribal schools. Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Shri Sudarshan Bhagat, Minister of State for Tribal Affairs along with Smt Preeti Sudan, Secretary (Health) and Shri Deepak Khandekar , Secretary of Tribal Affairs, were also present at the ceremony.

At the function, the Expert Committee on Tribal Health also submitted its detailed report with findings and recommendations jointly to the Union Health Minister, Shri J.P. Nadda and the Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Jual Oram.

“In line with our government’s commitment to universal health coverage with priority accorded to the health needs of those who require it the most, our endeavor is to ensure that health concerns of the tribal population are holistically addressed,” Shri J P Nadda said at the function. He further added we have signed an MoU to move forward and improve the health indicators of the needy and poor. “Simultaneously, measures would have to be taken to ensure tribal population are co-opted and not left out,” Shri Nadda elaborated.

Shri Jual Oram assured that the Government will implement the recommendations of the report. He further said that the report presents a comprehensive review of health of the tribal population and there is a need to adapt strategies to bridge the existing gaps in health of the tribal population.

The main objectives of this memorandum are to provide age appropriate information about health and nutrition to the children in schools, to promote healthy behaviors among the children that they will inculcate for life, to detect and treat diseases early in children and adolescents including identification of malnourished and anemic children with appropriate referrals to PHCs and hospitals, to promote use of safe drinking water in schools, to promote safe menstrual hygiene practices by girls, to promote yoga and meditation through Health & Wellness Ambassadors and to encourage research on health, wellness and nutrition for children.

For achieving these objectives, Health Ministry will sensitise the principals and train two teachers designated as “Health and Wellness Ambassadors” in all the functional Eklavya Model Residential Schools, ashram schools and other school supported by Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) using the existing capacity building mechanisms of MoTA in the States. MoTA will issue the required directives to the States for extending support to the Health Ministry in implementing all the activities related to School Health Programme including sensitisation of principals and training of “Health and Wellness Ambassadors”

MoTA will ensure required funds to the States for sensitization of principals, training of teachers and organising School Health Programme activities. The Health Ministry will extend support to all the other aspects of the School Health Programme namely health screening services through Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) teams, provision of Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation and biannual deworming in the functional Eklavya Model Residential Schools, ashram schools and other school supported by MoTA in the States. MoTA will issue necessary instructions to the States for reporting of activities as per the formats given in the School Health Programme with the indicated periodicity to The Health Ministry

The Health Ministry will ensure quality training of trainers at all levels and periodically review the status of implementation as per the guidelines of School Health Programme. The Health Ministry and MoTA will endeavor to encourage and facilitate, as appropriate, the advancement of linkages and cooperation between and through the agencies for carrying out School Health Programme activities

The Expert Committee on Tribal Health was constituted jointly by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India in 2013. The committee comprised of 12 senior experts who have worked for health in tribal areas, research institutions and secretaries of States with tribal population and was chaired by Dr Abhay Bang. This is first ever such comprehensive review of tribal health in India.

The expert committee held several meetings, themes were divided in subgroups and for that experts were invited. Apart from visiting States the committee used various source of data such as RHS, NHSRC, ICMR, Census, IIPS, NFHS, NNMB and NSSO. Review of literature both National & Global was done. Online suggestions were invited and also invited organizations working in tribal areas across States to present their work and best practices as a learning experience to take some of those experiences further in the national programme.

Also present at the ceremony were, Shri Dr. Balram Bhargava, Secretary (DHR) and DG, ICMR, Dr S Venkatesh, DGHS and Shri Manoj Jhalani, AS & MD (NHM) along with other senior officers from the Ministry of Health and Tribal Affairs.