Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare delivered the keynote address at the India TB Summit through video-conference, here today. The summit was organized to highlight the global and national prevalence of Tuberculosis in the run up to World TB Day celebrations on 24th March, 2021.The Union Health Minister reaffirmed the political commitment of the government to end TB: “Under the guidance of our Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi Ji, we have accorded high priority to eradicating Tuberculosis in India by 2025, five years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) target of 2030. The Government of 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.” The movement would make India step forward as a leader for a TB-free world, he added.Detailing about the National TB Elimination Programme’s ambitious National Strategic Plan (NSP) to achieve the said target by 2025, he said, “The NSP embraces bold strategies with commensurate resources to rapidly decline TB incidence and mortality. 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.”
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:
i. Through enhanced access to molecular diagnostics by decentralizing CBNAAT and TruNat services, India has enabled earlier detection of drug resistance.
ii. Through Active Case Finding, India has reached out to the unreached and vulnerable groups. 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 have been likewise awarded Bronze, Silver, Gold and even TB Free certifications.
iii. India has established TB Forums which provide a common platform to govt 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 ? 249.43 crores to over 11.10 lakh patients as nutrition support under Nikshay Poshan Yojana. He also informed how the government’s intervention ensured that gains against TB were not squandered during the Pandemic.Dr Harsh Vardhan called upon every citizen to fight collectively and think TB not as only a biomedical disease but also as 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 social disease. TB control needs to be taken up by all of us as a developmental issue. We have call upon a Jan Andolon against TB to reinforce our commitment to end TB through multi-sectoral and integrated actions.”He also took the occasion to remind the audience that the world has paying attention to India’s success in fighting TB and stated, “Recognising the leading role we have been playing in tackling TB, India has been asked to take on the role of Chair at the Stop TB partnership.” This will further help in the exchange of best practices and knowledge among all stakeholders while also integrating and reinvigorating global efforts to effectively address this grave health hazard by making it a people’s movement, he further observed.Dr. Harsh Vardhan concluded his address expressing optimism that the support of all stakeholders and collaborations across all the sectors will eradicate TB by 2025, living up to the slogan, “TB Haarega Desh Jeetega.” He wished the India TB Summit a great success.Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO, Dr. Zarir Udwadia, PD Hinduja Hospital, Dr. Naresh Trehna, Medanta Medicity, Dr. Madhukar Pai, McGill University, Dr. Anil Koul, Vice President & Head, Global Public Health & Infectious Discovery Research, Johnson & Johnson were present in the meeting. Many MDR TB survivors and patient advocates were also present.