Vardhan calls for collective fight against tuberculosis

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New Delhi, Mar 20 (PTI) Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Saturday urged people to fight tuberculosis collectively and consider it not just a biomedical disease but also a social disease.

Delivering the keynote address at the India TB Summit, Vardhan reaffirmed the government's commitment to end tuberculosis.

'India is committed to scale up access to free diagnosis through rapid molecular tests also providing information on drug resistance, free treatment for all people with TB, with best-quality drugs and regimens, financial and nutritional support to patients, use of digital technologies for notification and adherence and linking with interface non-governmental agencies to strengthen private sector engagement,' he said.

The minister said the movement would make India step forward as a leader for a TB-free world.

Detailing about the National TB Elimination Programme's ambitious National Strategic Plan (NSP) to end tuberculosis by 2025, he said, 'The NSP embraces bold strategies with commensurate resources to rapidly decline TB incidence and mortality.' 'The NTEP has instituted many innovations such as contracting of Patient Provider Support Agencies (PPSAs) to enhance engagement with the private sector, strengthening community engagement through TB Forums at the national, state and district levels, and integrating TB services across all levels in the health system, including the Ayushman Bharat- Health & Wellness Centres, thereby, making TB an essential part of Comprehensive Primary Health Care,' Vardhan said.

He also spoke on the new initiatives taken at sub-national level to strengthen community level engagement and to make it a part of Comprehensive Primary Health Care.

'Through enhanced access to molecular diagnostics by decentralizing CBNAAT and TruNat services, India has enabled earlier detection of drug resistance. Through Active Case Finding, India has reached out to the unreached and vulnerable groups,' Vardhan said.

'Sub-national surveillance of TB and disease-free certification has been introduced, wherein states/districts that have achieved significant reduction in incidence of TB from 2015 baselines were assessed and were likewise awarded bronze, silver, gold and even TB Free certifications,' he said.

Vardhan said India has established TB forums which provide a common platform to government officials, physicians, civil society and representatives from patient groups to discuss all concerns pertaining to service delivery and patient care.

The health minister also underscored how these arrangements are being backed by affirmative action, policies, and resources.

Resource allocation for TB has witnessed substantial increase in recent years.

'Last year, the government had disbursed more than Rs 249.43 crore to over 11.10 lakh patients as nutrition support under the Nikshay Poshan Yojana. He also informed how the government's intervention ensured that gains against TB were not squandered during the pandemic,' Vardhan said.

Vardhan called upon every citizen to fight tuberculosis collectively and consider it not just a biomedical disease but also a social disease.

He noted, 'Considering the extensive TB burden and the gamut of challenges, we must agree that much more needs to be done with support from all stakeholders.' 'To address tuberculosis, the first step is that we need to stop thinking of biomedical solutions only as TB is a social disease. TB control needs to be taken up by all of us as a developmental issue. We have called upon Jan Andolon against TB to reinforce our commitment to end TB through multi-sectoral and integrated actions,' he said. PTI UZM SNE