Tribal Health Initiative: A Light in the dark vacuum of Sittilingi


By NewsGram Staff-Writer

M S Swaminathan, M.P presenting the 13th Mahaveer Award to Dr. Regi M George and Dr. Lalitha Regi - Founders, Tribal Health Initiative. Source:
M S Swaminathan, M.P presenting the 13th Mahaveer Award to Dr. Regi M George and Dr. Lalitha Regi – Founders, Tribal Health Initiative. Source:

Amid quacks and blindfolded ignorant endeavors of the common people, which hardly cured any diseases or ailments, Dr. Regi George and Dr. Lalitha Regi in 1993, seeing the need of a proper health care centre in Sittilingi, formed the Tribal Health Initiative (THI). Sittilingi is a remote village in Dharmapuri district, 125 km away from Salem town in Tamil Nadu, which used to be a horrible place where tribal people used to do black magic and apply fake injections to cure people. This is when Dr. Regi and Dr. Lalitha took the initiative. This doctor couple went ahead to provide medical services to the people of Sittilingi, leaving their promising careers in the cities.

THI, as of 2010, has grown to be now a 24-bed hospital with a labor room, neonatal unit, operation theater, diagnostic laboratory and imaging facilities, a community health outreach program, an organic farming initiative, and a craft initiative which aims to revive traditional Lambadi embroidery. Dr. Regi George is an anesthesiologist and Dr. Lalitha Regi is a gynecologist. They were inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and the vision of “Health for All”.

THI started with a mud and brick hut where this doctor couple used to provide basic facilities to the tribal people like proper childbirth deliveries. In 1996, THI started training local tribal girls as Health Workers who currently work on a regular basis in the hospital. After having gotten the proper training, they are able to diagnose and treat common problems, assist in the operating theater, conduct deliveries, care for inpatients and go out to the villages for antenatal and child health checkups. THI also has a second group of older women called Health Auxiliaries who have been chosen by their respective communities. They live in the villages and come to Sittilingi every month for reporting and training.

THI’s approach to medical care went one step ahead in educating the people and ‘helping the tribals help themselves’. They wanted to create a general understanding about health and health issues and make the natives acquainted with basic first aid. Today, over 21 neighboring villages are benefiting from the Tribal Health Initiative that sprung at Sittilingi.

And, the NGO doesn’t pertain only to the domain of medical facilities. They organize educational program, cultural activities and community development initiatives. There is a library facility that is available for children who also get to listen to motivating stories from a community worker every month.