“While India has been proactive against TB in recent years, there is still a long way to go”
While India has been proactive against TB in recent years, there is still a long way to go. India bears the world’s largest burden of tuberculosis (TB), accounting for one-fourth of all new infections. Given that it kills nearly 300,000 people in India every year, the prevention and control of TB is a challenge at multiple levels, requiring the united efforts of a diverse range of stakeholders.
On the concluding day of the 10th Global Healthcare Summit in New Delhi, India, American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work towards eradicating Tuberclosis (TB) by the year 2030 in India. Now, under the new leadership of AAPI, the largest ethnic organization of any medical group in the US has initiated collaborative efforts to help eradicate TB from the face of India.
Towards this lofty goal, AAPI has announced the launch of a new partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Sevak Project, and CETI to make India Free of Tuberclosis and to end tuberculosis (TB) from across the Indian sub-continent. Anwar Feroz, AAPI’s Strategic Advisor, was instrumental and the architect of fostering the MOU between AAPI and USAID.
“Continuing with AAPI’s mission, which is to provide a forum to facilitate and enable Indian American physicians to excel in patient care, teaching and research, and to pursue their aspirations in professional and community affairs, and giving back to their motherland, India, this historic signing of the agreement, is yet another way of showing our continued commitment to helping make India’s over a billion people, healthier,” declared Dr. Naresh Parikh, President-Elect of AAPI. The MoU outlines the multifaceted nature of the TB epidemic, its impact on communities, learnings from global successes and the way forward towards tackling the disease successfully.
Under the Memorandum of Understanding, signed in New Delhi and announced in Mumbai, AAPI and USAID along with other NGOs will work together to utilize the 100,000-strong network of physicians of Indian-origin living in the United States to support health programs in India, engage AAPI’s network of private charitable clinics for TB awareness, detection and treatment, and explore opportunities for collaborations between U.S. and Indian medical schools to exchange cutting-edge health care solutions. The end TB date for the program is 2025 as per government of India.
XersesSidhwa, Director of Health at USAID/India, said: “We have been supporting the TB program of the Government of India for two decades now. Along with extending technical expertise, USAID has invested $140 million to strengthen the capacity of national, state, and district-level TB programs across India. With our collaboration with AAPI, we aim to strengthen the early detection and treatment of TB, with a focus on drug-resistant strains; continue our assistance to the government to plan and implement evidence-based interventions to reach a TB-Free India, and improve patient-centered TB services.”
Dr. Manoj Jain, an infectious disease physician, a lead for AAPI for TB Elimination, has been in the forefront, as the founder of CETI, in collaborations with AAPI to eliminate TB from India based in Indore, and Faculty at Emory University Rollins School of Public health, and live and practice in Memphis, TN.
A writer, and a national leader in healthcare quality improvement, Dr. Jain has been part of this new initiative of AAPI, since its launch. Dr. Jain writes regularly for the Washington Post, and the Commercial Appeal (Memphis newspaper). His writings also appear in the New York Times and the Times of India. He received his engineering, doctorate, and public health degrees from Boston University. He has served as a consultant to the World Bank on HIV, and has been interviewed by CNN and National Public Radio. Dr. Jain has conducted research on HIV epidemiology, quality improvement, and spirituality & medicine. Presently, Dr. Jain is adjunct assistant professor at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and the medical director at Tennessee’s Quality Improvement Organizations. He is a faculty for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement www.ihi.org, and is on the leadership team for the Healthy Memphis Common Table Community Partners Council and for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant. He has founded and chaired the Annual Nonviolence Conference in Memphis.
In helping AAPI leadership in preparations for AAPI Global Health Summit in Mumbai in December 2018, Dr. Jain is involved in working with local leaders develop a Local Roadmap on how to make 10 localities TB Free: Indore, Bhopal, Rajkot, Sevek villages in Gujarat, Mumbai-Malad, Ahmedabad, Mysore, Nagpur, Varanasi, and Lucknow, by conducting Field work with local NGOs in these localities to do TB screening in the slum areas. Dr. Jain says, “AAPI and CETI are working together can collaborating with other national and international organizations. Sharing best practices and pushing the TB Free effort. We have done a successful training sessions for 10 NGOs from these communites in Indore from June 8-12. We are staring to build local teams to develop the Roadmap for TB Elimination. And, we hope to start field work in these localities within 4-6 weeks.”
Dr. Jain says, “I have been going back to India each year for the past 45 years I have been in America. For the past 10 years we have taken on the challenge to make India TB Free, devoting my times and resources, working in villages or the slums of underserved community. We can see a measurable improvement in the lives of others, when we empower those in need and those who are helping them there on the ground.”
Dr. Thakor G. Patel, currently serving as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, who along with his successful Sevak Project in Indian villages, has been another inspiring force with the aim to free India of TB. “This is a huge issue in India because of clustering of people, poor nutrition and exposure to the infected people,” Dr. Patel says. “The objective of the TB Free India initiative is to make people aware of the disease and its mode of transmission, identify new case and notify the TB program managers and make sure patients take their medicines on regular basis. Another aspect is those patients with lingering cough give their sputum for TB check and get a chest X-ray. In the long run the plan is to eliminate TB from India,’ he says. The people who are affected with the disease are poor and do not understand the spread and the need for complete treatment. By helping them we will keep them working and provide for their family on a long term basis.
And, he has charted out a plan. “Collaboration with AAPI will help reach the government agencies in India and other NGO’s to help increase the outreach. At first, we will take all the Sevak villages and have the Sevaks implement the program. Once it is in place and we have a road map on how to expand the program it will be implemented in other states through NGO’s and government. We will be looking at ASHA workers for expanding the reach.
“We run the Sevak Project in the State of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and the country of Guyana. The plan is to use the NGO’s and government sources. Once the government gets involved with the success, they can take over. TB elimination is a government program and we will be assisting in closing the loop by supplementing the government programs.”
Following his training in Nephrology and Internal Medicine in 1979, Dr. Patel joined the United States Navy where he served for 23 years. His assignments included Diving Medical Officer, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Head and Program Director of Nephrology and then Director, Medical Service and Medical Director at the Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia. He also was the leader of a surgical support team during the invasion of Grenada in 1983 and Director, Medical Services of a fleet hospital in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. He served as Specialty Advisor to the Navy Surgeon General for Nephrology from 1988 to 1993 and for Surface Medicine from 1993 to 1998. He was responsible for starting the Surface Warfare Medical Institute in San Diego for training medical personnel going to the Fleet and redesigned the medical spaces on USS Nimitz as well as organized the first ever medical war games.
Dr. Raj Bhayani, President-Elect of AAPI-QLI, reported that nearly 2,000 villagers and underprivileged citizens from the outskirts of Varanasi, India came together as AAPI and AAPI Charitable Foundation organized World Health Day on April 7th. The day-long event was organized in association with Mahila Swarojgar Samiti with a view to educate women and children on the need for healthy living and how to prevent people from being impacted by health issues.
“This is a very much impoverished area of Varanasi where any help will be substantial,” said Dr. Bhayani. “We will be launching TB FREE VARANASI campaign soon in this region initially, and will take the campaign across the nation, later on.” About 100 volunteers have been trained and are ready to go to popularize the campaign and educate the rural people in this region on healthy living and on ways to prevent and treat Tuberclosis. Dr. Bhayani has urged AAPI leadership to “add this location for starting AAPI charitable clinic as we have a great reliable local partner and devoted and dedicated local team as well as tremendous need of clinic in this area.”
Dr. Naresh Parikh, President-Elect of AAPI, says: “Elimination of Tuberculosis has been a matter of national concern for many years now. Through our partnership with USAID and other NGOs in India, we aim to bring American technical expertise to help strengthen India’s fight against TB. Also, we intend to bring in leading subject matter experts, introduce global best practices and cutting-edge business solutions that will complement and grow existing USAID programs in India.” For more information, please visit: aapiusa.org