Nasscom engages corporates in `TB-Free India' campaign

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) Foundation today organised a conference for heads of corporate social responsibility (CSR) heads in New Delhi that saw leading companies pledging support to the government of India's call to action for a TB-Free India national campaign.

Government of India launched the `Call to Action for a TB-Free India' on 23 April 2015, with the goal to engage the corporate sector to further strengthen the ongoing efforts to reduce the incidence of TB and improve successful prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB in India. 

According to the World Health Organisation's Global Tuberculosis Report 2015, India has the largest number of TB cases in the world. India has 2.2 million pulmonary TB cases every year - the largest in the world. However, on a per lakh population basis, the incidence of TB in India is drastically falling. Today, India ranks 17 for prevalence of TB in high burden countries.
Commenting on the need for private sector's support to end TB in India, Anshu Prakash, joint secretary, ministry of health and family welfare, underlined the immediate need for combined efforts of all stakeholders, especially the private sector, to spread the message of prevention and control of TB in all segments of the population in India. ''The government alone cannot do this task. We all must join hands.''

Given that TB treatment is provided free of cost, the role of the private sector is to amplify and complement existing efforts, he said.

''Technology and innovation are essential tools to find low-cost, financially sustainable solutions to public health challenges such as TB,'' Xerses Sidhwa, USAID's director for health office said, adding that the agency was working to test and scale innovative solutions that will help TB patients in underserved populations in India.

D Khaparde, DDG, Central TB Division, said the government, under the `End TB Strategy' aims at reducing deaths from TB by 95 per cent and reducing the incidence of TB by 90 per cent while ensuring that no family incurs catastrophic cost for TB treatment by 2035.

Dr Khaparde also asked the corporate sector to come forward and partner with CTD to develop collaborative models for engagement.

Underlining the role of CSR, Kavita Ayyagiri, project director of USAID's Union South-East Asia, said, ''Corporates can lend their support to strengthen the existing TB control initiatives by enhancing the visibility of TB issues in corporate offices and production sites to prevent further infection; by adopting designated testing centres, prisons, slums, ART centres; by conducting TB-Free India awareness and screening drives in districts, villages, schools; by encouraging employees to get screened for TB; and adopting a workplace TB policy that doesn't discriminate against those diagnosed with TB.''

The union ministry of health had, in February, announced the launch of three important initiatives to combat TB, including the daily treatment regimen pilot in five states under which TB drugs will be administered in fixed doses daily replacing the existing three times a week treatment; purchase of 300 CBNAAT machines to conduct Rapid Molecular Tests for diagnosis of drug-resistant TB; treatment of multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium TB through Bedaquiline; and the TB Missed Call Initiative, a helpline with a toll-free number to provide information, counselling and treatment support services.

The Call to Action for a TB-Free India calls for increased efforts to control TB through innovative policies and new strategies to raise awareness and domestic resources to end TB in India. Minister of health and family welfare JP Nadda launched the `Call to Action for a TB-Free India' on 23 April 2015. The goal is to increase the visibility of TB and mobilise domestic resources and commitment to end TB in India.