Can ‘TB Mukt Panchayat’ programme help India fight tuberculosis?

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New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) The government’s TB Mukt Panchayat Initiative has the potential to help India curb the spread of tuberculosis (TB), as it engages the local community to create widespread awareness of the deadly disease.

However, its lacunas need to be addressed, said experts on Saturday.

India is the world’s largest contributor to the burden of tuberculosis, accounting for about 27 per cent of the global burden. The flagship programme was launched on March 24, last year, to meet the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating TB by 2030. India has, however, accelerated the timeline by 2025.

“The TB Panchayat Initiative is a community engagement initiative, wherein the national TB Elimination programme (NTEP) is banking upon the village level local self-governance system, called the Panchayati Raj, to attain EndTB goals,” Dr Swathi Krishna Njarekkattuvalappil, from Department of Community Medicine, Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College, Pune, told IANS.

“The nationwide campaign for ‘TB Mukt Panchayat’ stresses the engagement of local communities as central to TB control,” Gautam Menon, Dean, Research and Professor of Biology & Physics at Ashoka University.

Dr Swathi and a team of researchers conducted a study, published in the Lancet Regional Health – Southeast Asia, to understand the initiatives’ progress and shortfalls. The study comes ahead of World TB Day on March 24.

Published in the Lancet Regional Health – Southeast Asia, the study showed that the initiative promotes multisectoral collaboration “between departments and also solicits high levels of political will”; and local self-government schemes to strengthen end TB activities, among others.

However, the study showed that the initiative lacks a periodic monitoring mechanism, panchayat-level TB surveillance data, robust evaluation mechanism, among others.

Importantly, the study showed that initiative lays overemphasis on certification/award, which according to Dr Gautam can “lead to attempts to game the system.”

“Another concern is the lack of availability of fixed-dose combinations of anti-TB drugs in some frontline states including Rajasthan, MP, and Chhattisgarh. Yet, this campaign is an important move towards TB eradication in India. However, taking a holistic view that includes addressing social determinants and ensuring drug availability is important,” the noted epidemiologist told IANS.

–IANS

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