‘Lessons from COVID-19 helped intensify measures against TB’

Ramkumar S (ST File Photo)

SHILLONG, June 23: A fight is ongoing against this menace of tuberculosis (TB), and if one goes by the Managing Director of National Health Mission, Meghalaya, Ramkumar S, the lessons learned from managing COVID-19 pandemic has enabled the state machinery to intensify its efforts against the disease.
The NHM Managing Director was speaking at a press meet conducted by the State TB Cell under NHM, Meghalaya, which aimed to share updates about the ongoing tuberculosis elimination efforts being undertaken by the state government under the ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’ initiative.
Addressing the gathering on Thursday, Ramkumar S said, “Looking at the profile of the state, TB is one of the top causes of deaths due to diseases. In recent time, the stellar community work of ASHA workers, and with concerted efforts, the state has been able to almost eliminate the menace of malaria. A similar effort is under way for TB as well. Lessons from managing the COVID-19 pandemic have enabled us to intensify our efforts against TB. For instance, now each health centre has TB screening and testing capability. We are now able to leverage technology better, making TB notifications easier through mobile applications. We are ensuring that pharmacies are not issuing drugs to patients without proper prescriptions of health experts.”
Addressing the media persons, he emphasised that the media must continue to play a leading role in educating the public about TB, and take the message right at the community level.
The meeting explored two important dimensions — current status of Meghalaya’s efforts towards TB elimination, especially in a post-pandemic environment, and the endeavours to catalyse a mass movement against TB.
Speaking on the occasion, State TB Officer Dr M Mawrie informed the gathering about the various initiatives that have been undertaken to create awareness on TB among people across the state in last few months.
“Intensive efforts have gone in to ensure availability of modern testing equipment. Despite the pandemic impacting service delivery and TB notifications, innovative mitigation strategies were deployed to ensure that notifications were back to pre-pandemic levels. The programme notified 4,189 TB cases in 2021 in Meghalaya. In the first quarter of 2022, around 1,075 patients have been notified and enrolled for treatment,” said Dr Mawrie.
Taking cognisance of the serious public health challenge posed by TB, which affects over 26 lakh Indians each year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had brought forward India’s TB elimination target to 2025, five years ahead of WHO’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The press meet comes just three months after the release of the country’s National TB Prevalence Survey, which indicated that approximately 64 per cent of symptomatic Indians did not seek professional care for TB, indicating that building awareness continues to remain an important objective for the TB programmes.
On the efforts to build awareness and ensure last-mile delivery of health services, Dr Mawrie added, “In the last few months, the TB Programme has been trying to screen for presumptive TB cases. Once identified as TB cases, they are being immediately enrolled for TB Treatment. Various ongoing initiatives to eliminate TB include Active Case Finding (ACF) with the support of frontline health workers; collection of quality sputum from identified presumptive TB person for testing; organising a variety of awareness programmes on a regular basis for specific community groups such as faith leaders, traditional healers, tribal youth, tribal leaders and community influencers within tribal communities.”
Across Meghalaya, the spirit of the Jan Andolan or people’s movement against TB has been taking shape. It is bringing people from all walks of life together to support state’s consistent effort to eliminate the disease.
All participants at the meet undertook pledge to eliminate TB from their village, district or state.