Concepts of health and illness: Continuity and change among migrant tribal community in an Eastern Indian city

  • Suchismita Mishra Sambalpur University
  • Yadlapalli S. Kusuma All India Institute of Medical Sciences
  • Bontha V. Babu Indian Council of Medical Research
Keywords: indigenous medicine, ethnography, migration, acculturation, beliefs, perception, India


As a community acculturates, health and illness concepts undergo change; yet communities continue to hold to their native logic, beliefs, perceived causes, recognition and classifications of illness and subsequent management of them. We studied these concepts among a migrant tribal community living in the slums of Bhubaneswar, an eastern Indian city. In-depth interviews were conducted with specifically selected community members, key informants and traditional healers. The community’s perspectives of illness and its causes; and how the continuing cultural concepts and acquired modern knowledge and culture contact due to migration influence treatment seeking for various illnesses are discussed. The need for strategies for optimum utilisation of healthcare services is emphasised.