Delivering healthcare to rural populations: A matter of scale?

By Diego Rios Zertuche, Intern – ICTPH

Reducing the rural/urban inequality of access to health services in India is an issue of great concern. Despite the rapid economic growth of the country in the last decade, more than 716 million people live in rural areas and represent 72% of the total population. According to the World Health Organization, while 74% of births are attended by skilled health personnel in urban areas, only 38% are attended by skilled health personnel in rural areas. Furthermore, the majority of deaths in rural areas are related to preventable diseases. ICTPH is supporting SughaVazhvu Health Care to tackle challenge in rural Tamil Nadu.

The recipe for success requires an economically sustainable solution. The complexity of the problem increases when the goal is to reach populations living in remote and hard to access locations. Add low purchase power and the horizon darkens. The forecast for delivering healthcare to tribal villages in India appears grim and the potential benefits seem negligible. Yet, adopting a large scale network perspective could change the sight.

A large scale network not only has the potential to create economies of scale, but may also help address some of the problems inherent to rural conditions. Delivering a small quantity of medical supplies from a city warehouse to a remote village is expensive. However, as the number of villages increases, the amount of medical supplies required also increases. The village that once appeared remote is now connected by a chain of villages that bring it closer. The small quantity that was expensive to transport is now big enough to have economic potential.

This distribution system is called hub-and-spoke. It relies on storing large quantities at a central location, and delivering them to multiple destinations in small shipments using more efficient modes of transportation. Similar initiatives have been implemented successfully in rural areas of the world. Sabritas, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, implemented this system successfully delivering snacks and beverages to rural areas all across Mexico.

ICTPH is thinking on these facts when evaluating alternatives for SughaVazhvu Health Care. A large scale perspective not only makes the system sustainable, but could also bring healthcare closer to more rural populations.

Read the detailed report here.


Patil, V.K., K.V. Somasundaram and R.C. Goyal. (2002). Current Health Scenario in Rural India. Australian Journal of Rural Health. Vol. 10.

Sabritas es reconocida por su innovador modelo de distribución. (May 2007). Retrieved on August 2011 from Protocolo Foreign Affairs and Lifestyle:

World Health Organization, (2009). World Health Statistics 2009. WHO Press. France.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of

May 2024
« Apr