Why are they "unreached"? Macro and Meso determinants of health care access in hard to reach areas of Odisha, India

S. Nallala, Upasona Gosh, SS Desaraju, S. Kadam, RR Kadarpeta, Sara Van Belle

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Reaching hard to reach populations is key to reduce health inequities. Despite targeted interventions, status of crucial public health indicators like neonatal and maternal mortality is still far from optimal. Complex interplay of social determinants can influence both communities and health care workers to effectively access each other. We argue that culturally sensitive and contextually relevant healthcare provision has potential to increase health care utilization by the vulnerable communities living in remote areas.

METHODS: The study is an exploratory case study using rapid ethnographic techniques to understand the interplay of social determinants in hard to reach areas of Odisha state, India. We used in-depth interviews, focus group discussion, participatory action research and key informant interviews as tools for data collection. The analysis of data has been guided by thematic analysis approach.

RESULTS: We found that there are further layers within the designated hard to reach areas and those can be designated as-i) extremely remote ii) remote and iii) reachable areas. Degree of geographic difficulties and cultural dynamics are deciding the 'perceived' isolation and interaction with health care providers in hard to reach areas. This ultimately leads to impacting the utilization of the facilities. At extremely remote areas, felt health needs are mainly fulfilled by traditional healers and ethno-medical practices. In reachable areas, people are more prone to seek care from the public health facilities because of easy accessibility and outreach. Being in middle people in remote areas, diversify health care seeking depending upon social (e.g. patient's gender) economic (e.g. avoid catastrophic expenditure) and health system (timely availability of health human resources, language barriers) factors.

CONCLUSION: Our research highlights the need to value and appreciate different worldviews, beliefs and practices, and their understanding of and engagement with the pluralistic health care system around them. Other than pursuing the 'mainstreaming' of a standardized health system model across hard to reach areas, strategies need to be adaptive as per local factors. To handle that existing policies need revision with a focus on culturally sensitive and contextual care provision.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Focus Groups
  • Health Facilities
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • India
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care


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