Success of TB Jan Andolan depends on activities reaching grassroots population: Vardhan

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New Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) The success of the Tuberculosis (TB) Jan Andolan solely depends on activities reaching grassroots population and action has to pivot around states and most importantly in hard-to-reach areas, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Tuesday.

He also said that no two states are the same and stressed on the need to customise activities as per geography to accomplish a multiplier effect and bring in perceptible and measurable change. Vardhan made these remarks as he addressed the Tuberculosis Technical Consultants Network Teams comprising WHO-National Professional Officers for TB and consultants from across the country through video conference here. He was joined by Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO-SEARO, Roderico Ofrin, WHO Representative to India.

At the outset, Vardhan congratulated the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their continued support to India in its journey to eliminate TB by 2025, a health ministry statement said.

He thanked the organisation for helping the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Indian Association of Preventive and Social Medicine in the recently-conducted Sub-National Disease Certification.

'We have now declared one Union Territory, Lakshadweep and one District, Badgam in Jammu and Kashmir as TB free,' Vardhan stated.

He also detailed how the WHO has always been a constant source of transformative change in all health matters.

'Right from technical support, research, policy, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building to public health communication and knowledge dissemination, the WHO has always been there to support us; be it in drawing up the National Health Policy, or in initiatives like Ayushman Bharat, strengthening primary care through health and wellness centres or promotion of digital health,' he was quoted as saying in the statement.

Vardhan reminisced the collaboration he had with the WHO as Delhi health minister and the role played by the organisation in wiping out Polio myelitis from India, which used to have 60 per cent of the global case burden before 2009. India is polio free since 2011. He also further elaborated the support provided by the WHO in the COVID crisis.

Vardhan also highlighted the significant role the Consultant Network played under the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP), which has helped in reducing the gap of missing cases, and in achieving successful treatment outcomes.

'It is an encouraging sign and reflects that we are now able to provide better access for TB patients through our health sector (both public and private) and also reach out to communities through our Active Case Finding (ACF) drives, and provision of free treatment to TB patients. As proper diagnosis and prompt treatment are key to TB elimination, the consultant network must now focus on both detecting cases early and preventing the emergence of new cases,' he said.

The Union health minister stressed on the need to create a scalable and replicable model at the earliest at the grassroots. 'The success of the TB Jan Andolan solely depends on activities reaching grassroots population. Action has to pivot around states and most importantly, in hard-to-reach areas. No two states are the same and we need to customise activities as per geography to accomplish a multiplier effect and bring in perceptible and measurable change,' he was quoted as saying in the statement.

He also noted that the time is ripe to build upon the work that the WHO has been supporting for the last 70 years and expand the collaboration beyond medical interventions to include other ministries, gram panchayats, and elected representatives.

Vardhan also emphasised that eliminating TB from India is not only important for this country, but also has much deeper ramifications for the whole world and will considerably motivate smaller countries to this end, the statement stated.

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO-SEARO, observed that India's political commitment to end TB is reflected in the more than fourfold budget allocation for tuberculosis in the period 2016-2018 (from USD 105 million to USD 458 million).

She also pointed out that this allocation ensured that the WHO TSN network was not dependent on any other donor source for sustenance. PTI PLB KJ KJ