By Dr K. Madan Gopal and Dr K.S.Uplabdh Gopal
“It is not acceptable that every year, lakhs of people in our country are affected by tuberculosis and thousands lose their lives to it…We have not been successful in curbing TB yet. I believe that if something doesn’t yield results even after 10-15 years then we need to change our approach. The situation needs to be analyzed.” – Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi – at End TB Summit Delhi 2018. Prime Minister also set a target of ending TB in India by 2025, five years ahead of the global target set by the World Health Organization
Tuberculosis (TB) is a deadly disease that has killed millions of people around the world. With an estimated 2.6 million cases in 2019, India has the world’s highest TB burden. However, in recent years, the Government of India (GOI) has made significant progress in the fight against tuberculosis (TB). On this World Tuberculosis Day, let us take a closer look at some of the GOI’s efforts to eradicate TB.
The Government of India has been working tirelessly to eradicate tuberculosis from the country and has made significant progress in recent years. The National Strategic Plan to End Tuberculosis, which was launched in 2018, is one of the key initiatives in this regard. This plan establishes aggressive TB elimination targets for 2025 and includes a variety of measures to improve TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
The National Strategic Plan to End TB 2018, is a key initiative in the Government of India’s fight against tuberculosis. The plan includes a variety of measures to improve TB prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as ambitious targets for TB elimination by 2025. To meet these targets, the GOI has taken several innovative steps, such as increasing the use of GeneXpert machines, which can diagnose tuberculosis and drug-resistant tuberculosis in just two hours. To intensify the efforts further, ‘Pradhan Mantri TB-Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan’ was launched in September 2022, which has been envisioned to bring together all community stakeholders to support those on TB treatment and accelerate the country’s progress towards TB elimination and to make this campaign a mass movement. The GOI has also launched a digital platform called ‘NIKSHAY’ to track TB patients’ treatment and progress, providing real-time data to help effectively manage the disease, Ni-kshay Mitra initiative, providing additional patient support, and the Ni-kshay Poshan Yojana, providing Rs. 500 to those on TB treatment as nutritional support.
Another significant initiative of the GOI is the provision of free treatment to all TB patients in the public sector, which means patients would no longer have to pay for their medication or other TB-related costs. Furthermore, the Government of India has worked to improve access to health care in rural areas services are being extended through community health workers and volunteers and thus bridging the gap between patients and health care.
Another important initiative in to fight against tuberculosis is the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission; launched in 2014, the program aims to improve sanitation and hygiene across the country, which are major risk factors for tuberculosis, contributing to the disease’s spread. The Mission has contributed to the reduction of tuberculosis by increasing access to clean water and sanitation facilities and promoting good hygiene practices. As part of this mission, over 100 million toilets across the country and raised awareness about good hygiene practices.
In addition to improving diagnosis and treatment, the government has also been working to address the social and economic factors contributing to the spread of TB. These factors include poverty, poor living conditions, and lack of awareness about TB. To tackle these challenges, the government has launched several programs aimed at reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with TB, and it has been promoting awareness about the disease among the general public. To address the economic impact of tuberculosis, which can result in an improvement for the patients and their families, GOI launched a scheme in 2018 to provide financial assistance to TB patients and their families, to reduce the disease’s economic burden. The other schemes which have a positive impact on social determents and living conditions are viz. The ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’ (PMUY) aims to provide clean cooking fuel, particularly LPG, to rural and underprivileged households who typically use harmful fuels like firewood, coal, and cow-dung cakes. This initiative will promote the use of cleaner fuels, improving the health and well-being of rural households, and reducing the negative environmental impact of traditional cooking practices and PMAY ( Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana) for providing clean and pukka houses to the eligible population.
Despite these efforts, drug-resistant tuberculosis remains a major problem in India. MDR-TB is a form of tuberculosis that is resistant to two of the most commonly used drugs, rifampicin and isoniazid. MDR-TB has become a major global health concern in recent years, accounting for an estimated 27 percent of all TB cases. India has a disproportionately high burden of MDR-TB, accounting for one-fourth of all cases worldwide. According to the most recent Indian government report from March 2021, there are 124,000 MDR/RR-TB cases in the country, with a prevalence rate of 9.1 cases per lakh population. In addition, 11% of people in India have isoniazid resistance. MDR-TB is a major impediment to effective TB elimination efforts. However, the government has taken several steps to address this issue. Drug-Resistant TB Centres have been set up in major cities to provide specialized care to patients with drug-resistant TB. It has also introduced new drugs and regimens for treating drug-resistant TB, which are more effective and have fewer side effects.
On this World Tuberculosis Day, we should recognize the commitment and the progress made by the government in the fight against tuberculosis. We should also recognize the challenges that remain to be addressed. We can create a world where tuberculosis is no longer a threat to public health by continuing to invest in new technologies, improving access to care, addressing the social and economic factors that contribute to TB, and making this campaign a mass movement.
Individually, we can all contribute to the fight against tuberculosis. We can educate ourselves and our communities about the disease, support organizations working to end tuberculosis and advocate for policies that address the social and economic factors that contribute to tuberculosis. We can create a world where tuberculosis is no longer a threat to our health and well-being by working together. Let us all join together in this fight to make India TB-free.
(Dr. K Madan Gopal works as a Senior Consultant at NITI Aayog and Dr. K S Uplabdh Gopal is a health professional. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)