Saturday, December 20, 2014

Awareness is critical to India's tough battle against tuberculosis

Awareness is critical to India's tough battle against tuberculosis

- Amitabh Bachchan

Mumbai is a city known far and wide for its in domitable spirit. As proud Mumbaikars, it falls on us to be well in formed about looming threats that can adversely impact our city's welfare.

Tuberculosis is one such threat that has plagued our country for years despite the government's impressive Revised National TB Control Programme, and shows no signs of abating unless we as individual citizens join the efforts being made to eradicate this disease. In spite of being both preventable and treatable, TB is a largely neglected disease in India. As a result, the country records approximately 2.3 million new TB cases every year, with 3,00,000 people succumbing to the disease.

TB, much like the common cold, is a contagious and airborne infection that spreads easily and can be contracted by anyone upon exposure. It is frightening that in its initial stages many perceive TB to be a mere cough, which without timely and proper care eventually causes a great deal of physical, psychological and economic damage, and can even lead to death.

Seeking accurate TB diagnosis if a cough persists for more than two weeks will drastically improve a patient's chances of survival. Adhering to the full course of prescribed treatment is equally important for recovery. Government provides these services for free under its programme of integrated TB care, under the Directly Observed Treatment, Short Course (DOTS) regime. However, more than half of all TB patients seek private healthcare, where malpractices in TB diagnosis and treatment are commonplace, giving rise to deadlier drug-resistant TB.

The extent of India's TB problem became known to me when i was approached by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) for an awareness campaign under the Mumbai Mission for TB Control ­ a comprehensive strategy that was introduced in 2013, with a vision of “universal access to early TB and drug-resistant TB diagnosis, and appropriate TB treatment in the public and private sectors“. I felt humbled by the MCGM's request to be the brand ambassador of this commendable Mission.

Like the unprecedented Pulse Polio immunisation campaign, the TB awareness campaign could go a long way in strengthening MCGM's efforts towards TB prevention and control. As a strong advocate for placing greater value on the lives of our people, i freely made my disappointment known “on air“ to those who detracted from or avoided the polio immunisation programme. Greatly encouraged by India's historic win against polio, i hope to contribute similarly to India's fight against TB.

The Mumbai Mission for TB Control campaign will give a much-needed push to people exhibiting symptoms of TB to immediately get diagnosed. An untreated TB patient can potentially infect another 10-15 people, underlining that TB is not an individual problem but a collective battle. The campaign urges us to support TB patients and not to stigmatise them, thereby ensuring an environment that is conducive for TB patients to seek appropriate care.

With Mumbai gallantly leading the way, let us take the fight to TB and pave the way for overcoming one of India's biggest and oldest public health problems.

- Courtesy : Times of India : 20-12-2014

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