Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan has chaired a high-level meeting with senior officials of the Union Health Ministry and other development partners to launch a ‘Jan-Andolan’ against Tuberculosis (TB) involving Advocacy, Communication and Social Mobilization (ACSM).
The Minister has outlined the various steps were taken by the government under the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme (NTEP) to combat TB.
“We wish to make 2021 the year of Tuberculosis,” stated the Minister as he outlined the progress in ensuring all patients, irrespective of where they seek care, received free-of-cost, high-quality TB care in the last few years and expressed his confidence that these gains would feed into creating greater demand for services, de-stigmatise the disease and help realise the goal of a TB-free India by 2025.
Underscoring the importance of newer approaches to tackle the disease holistically and the need for accelerated and sustained focus to achieve the target of a TB Free India, the Minister said, “While the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme continues to augment efforts to further strengthen TB management and service delivery, it is only when the wider population uses the essence of democracy and the spirit of Jan Andolan through the generation of awareness, encouragement of health care seeking behaviour within their communities, and de-stigmatization of TB, would the movement against the disease is a success.”
He highlighted the importance of reaching maximum population quickly, ensuring full participation and cooperation of communities and community-based groups in various stages of TB response as the foundational pillars of his brainchild movement.
Drawing lessons from Covid-19 management, he said, “The pandemic has brought the focus back on the role of focused and rigorous messaging in creating an appetite for accurate information and appropriate behaviours and hygiene practices. Similar nation-wide messaging on TB symptoms can drive notification levels up and build awareness on the precautionary behaviour related to control of TB infection in the country.”
He chaired deliberations on a National Technical Support Unit (NTSU) that is proposed to be set up in collaboration with development partners to support the Government of India’s efforts, both nationally and in states, to help strengthen the on-ground program delivery by employing various advocacy and communications approaches to generate demand and create awareness on the services available under the TB programme.
Development partners working with the TB programme attending the event communicated the impact of their work in the past few years and shared their plans to support the proposed ‘Jan Andolan’ movement.
Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Secretary, Arti Ahuja, Addl Secretary (Health), Dr Sunil Kumar, DGHS, and other senior officials of the Ministry were present. Dr Roderico Ofrin, Country Representative, India (WHO), and representatives of development partners such as BMGF and USAID were also present at the event.